By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — Transport groups in this Summer Capital City support a proposed bill seen to resolve, comprehensively and in the long-term, the rampant overpricing and un-ending increase in prices of oil products imposed on the public.
Known as House Bill Bill 4355, it aims to return to the state the power to regulate the petroleum industry by repealing the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998 (RA 8479), which gives the right to the oil players to set the prices of petroleum products. It also aims to establish a Petroleum Regulatory Council which would regulate and stabilize, and centralize the procurement of oil and petroleum products.
In an interview, Carlito Wayas of the city’s Pinagkaisahang Samahang Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON-Metro Baguio) said that the bill is a welcome move as its approval would establish a government agency which would control the prices of petroleum products.
At present, he said in Ilocano, the petroleum price settings are usually done at the whims and caprice of the big oil players based on mere speculations in the international market.
The prices of oil products in the Cordillera is comparable to the Visayas and Mindanao where the pump prices are higher by P5 to P8 per liter compared to Metro Manila.
Gasoline prices in Metro Manila have increased by P5.25 per liter while diesel prices have risen by P5 per liter.
Benny Dacpano, in another interview, said that the scrapping of the oil deregulation is timely with the continued and unending increase of petroleum prices. There were already eight price increases on petroleum products since January this year.
There is a need for government institutionalized intervention on the oil industry and this is the passage of this bill into law, added Dacpano, a member of a taxi organization here.
No ex-generals to Regulatory Council
The Campo Sioco-Marcos Highway Drivers/Operators Association welcomes the move for the state to control the oil industry. Pedro Mana-a, president of the association, reiterated that officials that should sit in the Petroleum Regulatory Council should not be ex-generals, who had been proven in the past to have spoken in behalf of the oil companies rather than standing pat for the interests of the people.
Mana-a also supported the establishment of a buffer fund that shall solely serve to cushion consumers against drastic increases in petroleum prices. The Buffer Fund, according to the bill’s authors from progressive party-lists, is from ex-Pres. Marcos old Oil Price Stabilization Fund (OPSF) that reimbursed oil companies for “cost under-recoveries” and other dubious expenses.
Buy back Petron
Gerry Diano, another transport leader, pointed out that the move of the government to buy-back Petron is a step towards the nationalization of the oil industry. Petron was sold by the government to Saudi Aramco whose mother corporation is TEXACO of the United States of America.
“The oil deregulation policy had been proven to have worked against the interests of the transport sector and the Filipino people, as manifested by the unjustified and uncontrolled increases of petroleum products’ prices.
It is high time that steps toward nationalization of the oil industry be adopted and the new bill is a concrete expression of this move (nationalization), which we have no doubt for its support,” explained Diano, president of the Happy Hallow Drivers/Operators Asscociaton.
The above leaders all pointed out that the transport sector in this city and in the region has been affected most as the prices of oil products are more expensive here than in Metro Manila.
House records show that HB 4355 was filed by the progressive partylist bloc at the House on March 8 as a comprehensive and long term solution to the oil crises that faced the country.
Among the main sponsors of the bill, Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño said that it is in response to the alarming increases in oil prices and noting the “dismal failures” of the oil deregulation law.
Casiño explained that the bill is the anti-thesis of the failed and discredited deregulation policy in the oil industry. “It’s the long-term solution that government must do to protect the country and our people from oil price shocks and other oligopolistic practices of the oil monopolies,” he said in a press release.
“Deregulation has allowed oil price increases to go unchecked. R.A. 8479 surrendered government controls on the entire downstream oil industry, rendering the Department of Energy (DOE) to a mere apologist – if not de facto spokesperson – for oil companies each and every time that oil prices are pushed upward.
It is high time that government squarely address this situation by prioritizing this bill,” Casiño ended. # nordis.net