September 19, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 147 views

WHILE appealing to the oil industry players to share the burden of runaway fuel prices, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said Congress will look for ways to alleviate the problem.

In the consultative meeting, Romualdez asked the industry players to study if they can cut their profit margins, as a means of easing the impact of high petrol prices on ordinary Filipinos.

“If you are part of the solution, Congress will be very appreciative and supportive of you. But if you are part of the problem, we might have to undertake measures that would be unpalatable to you,” Romualdez said during a meeting with House leaders, oil industry players and officials from the Department of Energy (DOE).

Representatives from the oil industry assured Romualdez that they would relay the Speaker’s appeal to their principals who can decide on any commitment that they can make in the next consultative meeting with the House.

Among the possible courses of action discussed during the meeting is the proposal of Rep. Rodante Marcoleta to revisit the Oil Deregulation Law, as he noted that there is no transparency in the pricing scheme of oil industry players.

He noted that oil players sought and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the circular of the DOE requiring oil firms to submit detailed computations with corresponding explanation and supporting documents on the reasons for any movement of their oil prices.

Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, senior vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, noted that oil companies would usually submit to the DOE practically the same price adjustments “up to the last decimal point.”

“There is no reason why you would have the same weekly price adjustments,” she said.

She proposed that the DOE discard the practice of submitting price adjustment schemes weekly and instead just allow oil firms to make such submissions when it becomes necessary for each of them to increase prices or implement a rollback.

Romualdez assured oil industry leaders that the House is open to hearing other alternative options to address the relentless rise in oil prices that has been causing considerable strain on the budget of Filipino households, including possible adjustments to fuel taxation policies.

Present in the meeting were DOE officials, led by Undersecretary Sharon Garin, and representatives from the oil industry players such as the Petron Corp., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp.,

Independent Philippine Petroleum Companies Association, as well as officials from Chevron Philippines Inc., Philippine Institute of Petroleum, Flying V, and Total Philippines Corp.

Meanwhile, in a press briefing, ACT-CIS Rep. Erwin Tulfo said the House leaders may consider the temporary suspension of excise taxes on fuel until December instead of providing financial aid to the affected sector

Reports said the increase in the fuel prices may last until end of the year.

However, Tulfo said the government’s hands are tied because of the Oil Deregulation Law.

He added that the Speaker would have to make a formal recommendation to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for the suspension of the excise taxes on fuel, because the president can only do it.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III called on the government to provide a “lifeboat” to countless Filipinos struggling with the skyrocketing fuel prices.

“Nakakalunod na ang presyo ng krudo. Kailangan ng ‘lifeboat’ ng ating mga kababayan,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said Filipinos, especially public utility drivers, commuters and even business operators, grapple with relentless oil price hikes.

“Every week, our fellow Filipinos face the challenge of ever-increasing fuel prices. They need a lifeline now. I hope the government understands the gravity of the situation and the urgency of intervention to alleviate their hardship.

If the sky-high prices of fuel products are not promptly addressed, the country can expect inflation rates to soar, further impacting the economic well-being of every Filipino, Pimentel warned. With Camille P. Balagtas