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Bayan Muna mulls suing DOE execs for inaction on high fuel prices

/ 05:22 PM February 25, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Top officials of Bayan Muna party-list revealed on Monday that they may file charges against Department of Energy (DOE) officials for not ordering oil companies to enumerate reasons for fuel price adjustments.

Bayan Muna chair and senatorial bet Neri Colmenares and Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate urged DOE to implement its own order to oil companies to “unbundle” — that is, to itemize — the details of fuel hikes, amid another impending price increase.

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“Ang tagal na pong nakatengga sa DOE ang department order na ito, pero hanggang ngayon ay inuupuan pa din nila. Sabihin na nila kung sino sa mga oil companies ang pumipigil at nananakot sa kanila para masampahan din ng kaso,” Colmenares said in a statement.

[This order has long been issued this order, but up to now, they’re just sitting on it. They should identify which among the oil companies are stopping them and threatening them so a complaint can be filed against them.]

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According to Colmenares, unbundling fuel prices would assure transparency as oil companies would be forced to provide the public a breakdown of prices, including the “landed cost of fuel imports, marketing, distribution, taxes, and company profits”, among others.

He also said that they had requested for a copy of the data back in late 2017, but they have not yet received it as of now.

“The data we requested was long overdue, especially since they promised that they would submit it by November 2017. It is already 2019 and still no complete data was given,” he said.

“The data is very important especially now with the implementation of the 2nd tranche of the TRAIN [Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion] law and the continuous increase in pump prices,” he noted.

The idea of unbundling oil prices surfaced in news sites last May 2018 as oil prices surged to nearly P70 per liter for gasoline in some provinces, such as Palawan and Benguet, amid the implementation of the additional P2.50 excise tax brought by the TRAIN law.

“Ang hirap kasi na taas ng taas ang presyo ng langis pero bulag naman tayo kung tama ba ang sinisingil sa atin,” he explained.

[It’s a difficult situation that prices of fuel keep rising but we have no idea if what we’re being charged is right.]

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“As it is, the DOE should stop making excuses that they need more time for the memo or that they cannot summon the data needed to compute the real price of oil in the country. All the data we need can be summoned by the DOE secretary under Sections 12 and 15 of the Oil Deregulation Law,” he added.

In a statement last June 2018, the DOE admitted that oil players had resisted plans to itemize the costs of fuel based on claims that “such a proposal is no longer necessary to a deregulated market”.

DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi insisted though that as energy secretary he was authorized to ask any information from the oil companies.

“On my part, I have ordered the unbundling of prices of petroleum products and the corresponding department circular is now subject of focus group discussions with the stakeholders,” Cusi said.

Zarate added that the details of price adjustments would determine if oil companies were using the TRAIN law as an excuse to raise prices.

“Bayan Muna [has] been demanding for the oil pricing data from oil companies in our numerous hearings in Congress to see if there is overcharging or predatory pricing, but the oil companies just gave excuses not to submit their data while the DOE said they can do nothing. Then they said that they would issue an unbundling memo,” he said.

“We’re tired of hearing the DOE’s failed promises; just release the unbundling order and have the oil companies submit their data. If they will still not issue the memo by next week, especially with the upcoming big time oil price hike then we might file charges against them for being remiss of their duty,” he added. /atm

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TAGS: Bayan Muna, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Department of Energy, DoE, Fuel Prices, Neri Colmenares
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