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Recto, Concepcion set for cross-examination on oil price hikes

() - October 11, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Ralph Recto and Consumer Oil Price Watch (COPW) chairman Raul Concepcion are scheduled to be cross-examined by lawyers of the country’s three largest oil firms tomorrow when a Manila court resumes hearing a case accusing the oil firms of alleged overpricing.

Recto testified last Sept. 18 before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 26 Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. that the petroleum prices of the “Big 3” oil firms are overpriced by as much as P8 per liter.

In his direct testimony, Recto also said there was evidence that Shell, Chevron (formerly Caltex Philippines Inc.), and Petron – were committing cartelization, price fixing, and violating the Oil Deregulation Law, as well as its anti-trust provisions.

Recto based his statements on studies he made when he was chief of NEDA. On the other hand, when asked if he believed that up to the present time, the oil companies are still committing the same violations, despite not having access to NEDA records, Recto said “yes,” stressing that there was no change up to that time.

Last Sept. 11, lawyers of the “Big 3” oil companies walked out of the courtroom after Pampilo allowed Concepcion to take the witness stand.

Because of this, Pampilo issued an order directing lawyers Jannet Regalado of Shell, Erwin Herrera of Chevron, and Gener Asuncion of Petron to explain why they should not be cited for contempt for their walkout.

The three lawyers also refused to attend the scheduled hearings set by Pampilo after the incident.

Pampilo said the lawyers committed indirect contempt, which carries a penalty of six months’ imprisonment or a fine of not more than P10,000.

The lawyers questioned, among others, the jurisdiction of the Manila court to issue a temporary restraining order last Sept. 17 to stop the oil price increases.

Shell, Chevron and Petron also filed a motion to inhibit the judge from the case.

Concepcion testified that Shell and Petron, since they are refineries and import crude oil, should use the NYMEX or Dubai crude oil price indexes, which are based on the importation of crude oil and is priced lower than the Mean of Platts Singapore (MOPS), a higher-priced index used for the importation of refined petroleum. He added that only Chevron has no refinery.

“If they want to use MOPS, which should not be the case, I will give in. But the price increase should be only once a month, because the inventory (lasts) 30 days,” he said.     – Sandy Araneta

CALTEX PHILIPPINES INC CHEVRON AND PETRON CONCEPCION DIRECTOR GENERAL RALPH RECTO AND CONSUMER OIL PRICE WATCH ERWIN HERRERA OF CHEVRON FORMER NATIONAL ECONOMIC AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY GENER ASUNCION OF PETRON JANNET REGALADO OF SHELL JUDGE SILVINO PAMPILO JR. OIL PAMPILO
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