(STAR) The government must put up commissaries and reduce remittance fees to ease the adverse effects of a strong peso on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said yesterday.

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said the commissaries should sell food and other basic commodities at discounted prices for families of OFWs.

“DOLE has come up with two sets of remedial measures, immediate and long-term,” he said.

Brion said the DOLE came up with the recommendation following consultations with the Department of Agriculture, the Department Trade and Industry, Department of Finance, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Other immediate remedial measures involve income augmentation programs for low salaried semi-skilled OFWs earning less than $400 basic monthly pay, he added.

Brion said the measures include the provision of livelihood and skills training for employment scholarship programs (SESP) to enable OFWs and their families to gain appropriate skills and loan assistance for the setting up of income-augmenting business enterprises.

For OFWs earning a monthly salary of $400 and above, the DOLE recommended the floating of OFW bonds that can pay for house and lot at a discount price and as alternative OFW investment, he added.

The DOLE also recommended the provision of long-term financial literacy program and enterprise development training for OFWs and their families to sustain the assistance and viability of the OFWs’ economic capability, Brion said. – Mayen Jaymalin

More oil price hikes coming, says DOE exec By Donnabelle L. Gatdula Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Consumers are likely to bear another P2 to P3 per liter increase in petroleum pump prices in the coming weeks if prices in the international oil market continue on an uptrend, an oil industry official said.

Independent Philippine Petroleum Companies Association (IPPCA) chairman Fernando Martinez said if the $90 per barrel cost of petroleum will be reflected in domestic oil prices, it will result in about P2 to P3 per liter under-recoveries for oil companies, which will eventually be passed on to consumers.

He said if market forecasts that point to global crude prices reaching $100 per barrel materializes the increase would even be higher.

To pacify consumers, Martinez, however, said the oil companies are likely to maintain the implementation of staggered or small incremental oil price hikes.

“We will continue to have the small increases. We will not be implementing increases more than 50 centavos per liter,” he said.

Martinez aid should the government consider the proposed cut on import duty and the removal of excise taxes on imported fuel products, there could even be a “rollback” on oil prices.

But the removal of taxes and duties, he said, are just among the short-term mitigating measures.

He pointed out that some long-term measures could be directed at curtailing oil smuggling and the promotion of the use of alternative fuels.

“It is unfair and we are adversely affected by this. And we would like to reiterate our request for the Department of Finance, Bureau of Customs and DOE that we are in full support that all export processing zones with respect to oil imports must be taxed and duty paid in advance,” he said.

“We are even open to subjecting ourselves to pre-shipment inspections, in which the industry is even willing to shoulder,” he added.

There was on earlier plan to temporarily lift the tariff on imported fuel products to ease the burden on oil consumers as the global crude prices have hit record highs.

But the Department of Finance and the Department of Energy have yet to identify the trigger levels for the tariff reduction.

The same mitigating measures were implemented last year when the benchmark Dubai crude hit more than $65 per barrel.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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