Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. jacked up yesterday the price of its liquefied petroleum gas products by P4 per kilo or P44 per 11-kilogram LPG cylinder.
Shell spokesman Roberto Kanapi said the price adjustment was due to the higher acquisition cost of the latest LPG imports.
The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) criticized the government for its inability to resolve the LPG shortage.
“The latest LPG price increase of P4 per kilo highlights the utter failure of the DOE to protect consumers,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.
He stressed “the de facto price ceiling it imposed is meaningless since prices are deregulated anyway.”
“The campaign against hoarders would not amount to much unless the cartel or Big 3 which control 92 percent of the LPG market is also probed for their role in the alleged shortage,” Reyes said.
He also criticized the deregulation law, saying that its flaws as well as that of cartelization are “more apparent now.”
The task force on energy issues vowed to address the LPG shortage.
Crizelda Martin Funelas, DOE director for legal, said the task force would look into the LPG supply problem, which she described as having been “blown out of proportion.”
“We will invite the complainants to formalize their complaints on overpricing and pursue an investigation into that. We are already acting on that moto propio because the complaints were received over the phone,” Funelas said.
Reports of overpricing of LPG or cooking gas for the past weeks have continued amid the prevailing tightness in supply.
Funelas said the DOE would start to check on the inventory of LPG dealers and marketers.
“I am not in a position to say whether there is really a shortage, but that is why we asked the oil firms to submit their reports because some of them have not submitted,” she said.
She added that the report would include the names of LPG suppliers, their inventory level, delivery points, and other pertinent information.
She cited an Oil Industry Management Bureau report which states that there is adequate supply of LPG. She said the latest report would hopefully shed light into the LPG supply situation.
“We will look at reports of hoarding and overpricing, and we will meet again on Feb. 10,” the energy official said.
Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said the supply of LPG is expected to normalize starting Monday, following fresh deliveries of around 23,000 metric tons of the cooking gas from oil companies.
The LPG Marketers Association said the problem could last until next month as it warned that the prices would go up by P5 per kilogram due to the $100 increase in LPG contract price in the world market.
Reyes also admitted that the price of LPG in the domestic market would jump by P3 per kilogram next month.
“The contract price for January is out and went up by $50 per metric ton – which is equivalent to P2 per kilo on the consumer level, but you have to add the VAT and other factors (i.e. premiums, among others).
“In February, LPG contract prices will increase anywhere from $70 to $100 per metric ton translating to P3 per kg at the outlet.”
Yesterday, Seaoil Philippines increased the price of its gasoline products by P1 per liter.
Palace optimistic on supply
Malacañang is optimistic that the supply of LPG would normalize in the next two weeks based on the assurance given by the DOE.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that the DOE, through undersecretary Roy Kiamco, informed him that the delivery of LPG has started coming in since last week and that this would continue until March.
“According to the DOE, there is no such shortage (of LPG),” Ermita said.
He noted that some delays were experienced by ships delivering the LPG, which led to the impression that there was a shortage in the country.
Ermita said that Kiamco guaranteed the normalization of supply in the country within the next two weeks.
He said the Palace would be monitoring the situation and make the DOE accountable if the promise is not fulfilled.
NBI to probe supply shortage
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will start investigating alleged hoarding of LPG by some businessmen.
Vice President Noli de Castro asked the NBI to conduct its own investigation of the LPG supply shortage.
Reports cited that the hoarding of LPG has triggered an increase in the prices of cooking gas.
LPG prices should not exceed P525 per 11-kilogram tank, reports said.
NBI spokesman Allan Contado, also chief of the NBI’s Anti-Graft Division (AGD), would start their investigation against LPG hoarders and identify businessmen engaged in hoarding of LPG.
Contado said the NBI-Anti Fraud and Computer Crimes Division (NBI-AFCCD) would be the division in charge of conducting inspections on LPG dealers and warehouses.
The NBI was expecting yesterday a Department of Justice (DOJ) memo, which reports the activities of some businessmen involved in hoarding and manipulation of the prices of LPG tanks.
“Just like the rice hoarding last year, we are facing a very serious problem. Once we receive the memo, we will start our campaign against LPG hoarders,” Contado stressed.
Stove using rice hull fuel
Meanwhile, a farmer from Malolos, Bulacan has invented a stove using rice hull as fuel.
Farmer turned inventor Agaton Milagroso of Barangay Balite said families could save a lot of money by using rice hulls as cooking fuel.
He said that rice hulls are virtually free and never run out of supply.
“While farmers plant rice, we have nothing to fear because rice fuel is cheaper,” Milagroso, who stopped using LPG since he built his sipag-kalan, said in Filipino.
He said that compared with an LPG tank that costs almost P500, a sack of rice hull only costs P20 and can be used for three days.
He explained that using rice hulls as cooking fuel is environment friendly compared to charcoal, as no tree is felled to produce rice hull and it is easier to light.
“This is the solution to shortage of LPG,” Agaton said as he demonstrated the use of his sipag-kalan.
Aside from sparing trees, Agaton said his sipag-kalan’s byproduct of carbonated rice hulls could be used as fertilizer.
As a farmer, he said that he came up with the idea of using rice hulls as alternative cooking fuel because they need carbonated rice hulls in the farm for organic rice production.
Agaton has built and sold at least 3,000 units of his sipag-kalan to fellow farmers who are into organic rice and vegetable production in Bulacan and other neighboring provinces. — WIth Marvin Sy, Sandy Araneta, Dino Balabo, Jose Rodel Clapano, Pia Lee-Brago