UN sends experts to probe Saudi attack
UN Secretary General Antònio Guterres confirmed that experts have left for Saudi Arabia with a clear mandate in line with a Security Council resolution on the Iranian nuclear issue.
Yuri Kadobonov/AFP
UN sends experts to probe Saudi attack
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - September 20, 2019 - 12:00am

UNITED NATIONS – Experts from the United Nations have been sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate the recent drone attacks on oil facilities in the Middle Eastern nation.

UN Secretary General Antònio Guterres confirmed that experts have left for Saudi Arabia with a clear mandate in line with a Security Council resolution on the Iranian nuclear issue.

“In line with Resolution 2231 of the Security Council, with the clear mandate for that purpose, the UN experts, indicated by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, have already left for Saudi Arabia,” Guterres said at a press briefing on Thursday (Manila time).

“And, obviously, they will be doing their job according to the mandate that the Security Council has given them. This is not the first time, as you know. It is something that is clearly defined by a Security Council mandate,” he added.

Resolution 2231 refers to the UN Security Council resolution adopted in 2015 that endorses the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to solve the Iranian nuclear issue.

The United States accused the Iranian government of being behind the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities last Saturday, which has affected global supply and sent oil prices soaring.

Guterres condemned the attack and described it as a “dramatic escalation” of the situation in the region.

He said he has been in close contact with leaders in the Gulf region to facilitate the creation of conditions that would avoid any escalation of the conflict.

“I believe that we absolutely need to stop this kind of escalation and that we absolutely need to create the conditions to avoid the major confrontation in the Gulf that would have, as we have seen by the immediate impact on oil markets, if there would be a major confrontation in the Gulf, it would have devastating consequences for the region and globally,” he said.

“This attack represents a very dramatic escalation, and it should be condemned. It’s also a violation of international humanitarian law. And, as I said, it is very important that this is not repeated and that this escalation stops,” the UN official added.

The Department of Energy earlier said it is monitoring developments related to the drone attacks as it could have an impact on oil prices in the Philippines.

The Department of Labor and Employment said it is assessing if there is a need to repatriate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia.

The drone attacks last Saturday on the world’s largest oil processing facility and an oil field in Saudi Arabia significantly affected production and pushed prices higher worldwide.

The US and Saudi governments blamed the attacks on Iran, as they came from the north. Iran denied involvement in the attack.

Warning to oil firms

In Manila, leaders of the House of Representatives yesterday warned oil companies against taking advantage of the developments in Saudi Arabia to raise prices. They also called for the establishment of fuel reserves to ensure steady fuel supply in times of crisis.

“I am drawing them (energy officials) to tell oil companies to explain their pricing actions,” Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, told reporters in a Viber message.

Salceda, a former director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority, said oil companies should “prove that they are replacing cheaper inventory with higher priced newly negotiated oil.” 

“Otherwise, the oil price increase of P1.35 per liter for gasoline, P0.85 per liter for diesel and P1 per liter for kerosene is brazen profiteering given that global prices are going back to normal range,” Salceda pointed out.

“We’ll make sure they pay the proper taxes on those windfall,” he said. “The administration should not engage in knee jerk reflex reaction and exhaust all measures to keep oil supply steady and prices stable. The rest is a source of amazement to policymakers.”

House Deputy Speakers LRay Villafuerte (Camarines Sur) and Mikee Romero (1Pacman party-list), meanwhile, called for the creation of a fuel reserve that will ensure uninterrupted oil supply in times of crises.  

“Given the adverse impact of any oil price surge on the cost of basic commodities and on transport fares, the government must take all necessary measures, including putting up its own oil reserves, to prevent runaway inflation,” Villafuerte said.

Romero, president of the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc., said a “national strategic fuel reserve will enable the government to protect Filipino consumers from the shocks of price hikes of crude oil in the world market.”

The senior administration party-list lawmaker authored House Bill 1936 in May 2018 through which he recommended the putting up of fuel reserves as an anti-inflation measure.

“While the bill goes through the legislative process, I suggest that the Department of Energy or the Energy Regulatory Commission require oil firms to increase their mandatory fuel buffer from current levels to 30 days,” Romero said.

“Perhaps as an incentive, the stocks in the fuel reserves can be exempted from excise or value-added taxes. This would make maintaining those reserves financially viable because there are inventory costs to offset,” he added.

He also pointed out that the energy departments of the member-nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are amenable to the concept of strategic fuel reserves. – With Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin

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