No stopping oil price hikes - DOE
- Cheryl Arcibal () - March 15, 2012 - 9:32am

MANILA, Philippines - The government on Thursday reiterated that it would be unable to stop oil firms from implementing oil price hikes in the country.

In a television interview, Zenaida Monsada, director of the Oil Industry Management Bureau of the Department of Energy, said  that oil prices in the country are influenced by fuel prices in the international market.

"The oil supply has been disrupted because of the uprisings in the Middle East and Africa. Our oil industry is deregulated. What we can do in the government is to ensure that oil companies do not increase their prices excessively," Monsada said. Since the start of the year, Monsada said, oil firms have implemented eight rounds of price hikes and two rounds of rollback.

Monsada also said that the Philippines would be unable to influence the fuel prices in the international market as the country consumes some 300,000 barrels of oil a day, while the global demand is 90 million barrels a day.

"We just buy from the market, we can't do anything about it," Monsada said.

The activist group Bayan has  led the protest actions against oil price hikes.

Bayan and other people's organizations, including the Koalisyon ng Makabayang Manggawa at Mamamayan, held protest actions to coincide with the World Consumer Rights Day.

"It has no concrete and thoroughgoing plan to address the impact of rising petroleum prices. Consumers are fed up with this government’s callousness," said Renator Reyes Jr., Bayan secretary general.

He also clarified that no transport strike was being held in Metro Manila. Reyes said  that in deploying police and soldiers, the government may be intending to intimidate protesters.

“OA sila pagdating sa protesta, pero inutil pagdating sa totoong problema,” he said.

The Philippine National Police has deployed around 500 of its personnel around areas of Metro Manila where protest actions are held.

Bayan will join the 1,450-strong BATODA or Batasan Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association at their Batasan Road terminal for a program and noise barrage.  At the terminal, a huge streamer with the words “BATODA galit sa mataas na presyo ng langis!” hung near the entrance.

The tricycle drivers parked at the terminal held several noise barrages while waiting for passengers and listening to speakers.

Bayan also scored Malacanang for refusing to reduce the 12-percent Value Added Tax on petroleum products.

The Palace issued a statement that the VAT is necessary to build government’s revenue base so that its cost of borrowing will decrease allow it to spend for social investments.

"Malacanang does not want to give up this International Monetary Fund-imposed revenue measure because it wants to keep paying its creditors. It wants to maintain our current credit rating. It’s all about debt and not about providing social services,” Reyes said.

The transport caravan and rally held by transport groups have compelled many schools and colleges in Metro Manila to suspend classes. The transportation sector has been complaining about the unabated increase in oil prices, reducing their income.

In San Juan and Parañaque, classes in all levels have been suspended, while those in Quezon City and Pasay City, classes in pre-school to high school have also been suspended.

Other schools that declared class suspension were the Far Eastern University, St. Catherine, Centro Escolar University, University of the East, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Sta. Isabel College, San Sebastian College, Our Lady of Fatima University in Quezon City, College of Holly Spirit and Sienna College. Manila Science High School has cancelled its scheduled exams but said that classes will continue. Dennis Carcamo

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