The transportation sector is calling on the House Committee on Energy that has set a public hearing in Bacolod City today to act, not only on the huge price difference between fuel sold in Negros Occidental and Metro Manila, but also on the failure of oil firms to roll back prices to reflect global trends.
Oil prices eased to near $87 a barrel yesterday in Asia on renewed concerns that the U.S. economy may weaken and hit fuel demand in the world's top crude consumer.
About 12 congressmen, including those from Negros Occidental, are expected to join the House Committee on Energy hearing on complaints that fuel sold in Negros Occidental cost about P4 more than that in Manila, at the Social Hall of the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.
Rep. Lucy Torre (Leyte, 4th District) and Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao (Sarangani), who are members of the House Committee on Energy, have also been invited to the hearing but there has been no confirmation that they will attend.
To be heard are House Resolution 1170 filed by Bayan Muna Reps. Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares, and House Resolution 1218 filed by Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) for an inquiry on the unusually high prices of fuel in Negros Occidental in aid of legislation, House Committee on Energy chairperson Henedina Razon-Abad said.
George San Mateo, secretary general of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) to which the United Negros Drivers Operators Center is affiliated, said at a press conference in Bacolod that the recent P2 rollback in the price of petroleum products in the country was too meager.
He said diesel prices should drop by P8 and gasoline by P9 to truly reflect the easing of prices in the world market.
In fact the big three oil companies’ recent delay in rolling back prices by two days allowed them to make a profit of P104 million and the government to earn P12 million in Value Added Tax at the expense of the consumers, San Mateo said.
He said the big three oil firms in the country continue to control 78 percent of the country’s fuel supply enabling them to maintain “cartel” prices.
“It is hoped that today’s congressional hearing will lead to the government’s buying back Petron, we need a major player who will sell fuel at prices reflecting their true value so other firms will not abuse prices,” San Mateo said.
Meanwhile, if oil prices are not rolled back enough to reflect global trends, San Mateo said his group may stage protests.
He also said he hopes the Committee on Energy hearings will lead to the repeal the Oil Deregulation Law.
UNDOC chairman Romel Santillan, secretary general Jesse Ortega, and deputy secretary general Nilo Frias, at the press conference, also echoed the call of San Mateo for oil firms to roll back their prices to reflect global trends.
They also thanked Casiño and Colmenares for listening to their clamor to investigate the unfair pricing of petroleum products in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental, and other Visayas provinces compared to that of Metro Manila, and asked them to help come up with pricing mechanisms that would lead to lower fuel pump prices.
In a joint statement they said they understand why the former administration did not act on their complaints, but they expected President Benigno Aquino, who promised to lead the nation down the straight path, to be different.
“We are dismayed over his continued refusal to lift the 12 percent Expanded Value Added Tax on fuel,” they said.
“We had half-anticipated that the absence of the wang-wangs on the streets would allow the president to hear the clamor of the common tao more clearly. We were mistaken,” they said.
They also said they hope the allies of the President in the House, will find the strength in themselves to serve the people.
Meanwhile, Colmenares said in a press statement that HB 1170, to be heard today, aims to investigate the reason behind the discrepancy of fuel prices in Negros Occidental and other provinces compared to Metro Manila.
“People from various provinces deserve a full and transparent explanation from oil companies on the formula in computing higher fuel prices in their areas,” Colmenares said.
If there is no basis for the prices imposed by these oil companies, then their distributors should be made accountable for such a criminal act and the excessive impositions should be immediately stopped, he added.
“Let us continue opposing the unjust and unfair pricing scheme of the big oil cartel, continue pushing for the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law and continue calling for the nationalization of the oil industry,” the press release of Colmenares said.*CPG