Lawmakers want price controls on petroleum products
- Jess Diaz () - March 10, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  Several lawmakers urged the government yesterday to again control increases in the prices of gasoline, diesel and other oil products.

Reps. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City, and his brother Maximo, who represents the party-list group Abante Mindanao, filed Bill 2569 which seeks the repeal of Republic Act 8479, otherwise known as the Downstream Oil Deregulation Act of 1998.

The bill would return the oil industry to state regulation.

It would revive the Marcos-era Oil Price Stabilization Fund (OPSF) to subsidize oil products.

Seven militant party-list representatives led by Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna have filed a similar measure.

Another House member, Joseph Victor Ejercito of San Juan City, supported the call for the imposition of price controls on petroleum products.

In calling for the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law, the Rodriguez brothers said Congress deregulated the oil industry “to foster a truly competitive market and adequate supply of environmentally-clear and high quality petroleum products.”

“However, the purposes for which the law was passed have not been realized. On the contrary, it has only strengthened the oil cartel in the country. The promise of competition by the entry of new oil players had not been accomplished,” they said.

“The high price of oil adds misery to the people as it translates to lesser purchasing power on the part of consumers. Hence, this bill to regulate the oil industry and reestablish the OPSF,” they said.

They added that the fund would be used to “reimburse oil companies for cost increases on crude oil and imported petroleum products resulting from exchange rate adjustment or increases in world market prices of crude oil.”

Thus the need for these companies to increase their pump prices would be obviated, they stressed.

On the other hand, Ejercito said the frequent price increases in the oil sector would cause immeasurable suffering on the part of the people and could soon fuel protests and strikes.

“To avoid this kind of chaotic situation, the government should impose price controls on oil and revive the OPSF,” he said.

Sen. Manuel Villar also said it may be time to revisit the Oil Deregulation Law and to implement a comprehensive oil sector reform agenda.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ralph Recto urged the government to use its windfall revenues from the collection of value added tax on oil to subsidize fuel, specifically the socially sensitive diesel, amid continued increase in oil prices.

He said that the government should study all options to bring down pump prices even if it means giving up revenues.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the Department of Energy (DOE) is now discussing with the Department of Finance (DOF) the establishment of a relief fund to assist public transport groups.

The energy chief did not give details on the proposed fund but there were proposals to use the estimated P2-billion windfall from tax collected on petroleum products.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, on the other hand, has filed a bill that would amend the VAT law for the purpose of restoring the exemption of oil and power from VAT.

Senate Bill 2672 was filed last month and has yet to be taken up by the concerned committees.

In a related development, Sen. Edgardo Angara expressed concern yesterday over the impending increase in the prices of staple foods, which he said might cause widespread social unrest “that has already toppled leaders in North Africa and in the Middle East.” – With Marvin Sy, Donnabelle Gatdula, Christina Mendez

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