House eyeing oil law tweaks to ease prices


THE House of Representatives will invite officials of the country’s oil companies to address the impact of these recent oil price increases, including possible amendments to Republic Act 8479, or the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998, which “tied” the government’s hands in bringing down the prices of oil.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez made a statement following the continuous increase in the price of oil for several straight weeks.

Romualdez said they will invite officials of the country’s oil companies—big and small—to find a solution or compromise by giving motorists a respite.

According to the Office of the Speaker, a meeting between the House of Representatives and oil companies is planned for next week.

The House leader hinted at a review of pending bills amending the oil deregulation law as a necessary step towards bringing down the prices of oil.

“It is common knowledge that oil companies still sell supplies bought at lower prices before the costs of crude oil in the world market increased. Maybe we can ask them not to raise the price,” the Speaker said.

“This is one of our problems, the Oil Deregulation Law that contributed to the high prices of petroleum. It ties our hands. We don’t want to impose on them (oil firms), but we also want to know if they can help alleviate our suffering,” he said.

Romualdez noted the high prices of oil per barrel in the world market, which have been dictating rates in the domestic supply, aside from the Oil Deregulation Law that tied the government’s hands.

There are several bills pending in Congress calling for amendments to RA 8479.

In response to the changing times, Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo said the government needs to update its policies so that it is sufficiently capacitated to prevent and prosecute criminal practices that hamper competition and promote unfair trade in the oil industry.

In her House Bill 494, Quimbo said RA 8479 should be amended to ensure transparent pricing of oil products as well as a means for the government to step in when the price of oil becomes too high.

Moreover, Romualdez noted that the fuel being sold in the market at present is old stock or has stayed for months in the inventories or depots of oil companies.

“We want to hear from them what they can do to help in this kind of situation and if indeed they are willing to help at all because these oil price hikes have been a burden to our kababayans,” Romualdez said.

In times of economic hardship, the speaker said all stakeholders must find solutions to alleviate the plight of the people, including oil companies.

“I think it would be better if we helped each other soften the impact of these oil price increases because we want these products to be affordable. People have been bearing the brunt of this situation for a long time now,” Romualdez said.

“The government is not insensitive to the sentiments of our people, especially since this carries a domino effect on all products in the market. We all know that once the prices of oil rise, everything else shoots up, except the wages and salaries of our workers,” he said.

For her part, Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro welcomed the initiative of the House leadership to call oil companies into a dialogue on how to lower oil prices.

But more than the dialogue, it is imperative that Congress act now and expedite the approval of measures that would lower oil prices and again regulate the oil industry, she said.

Castro said Malacañang and the House leadership should certify these measures as urgent: House Bill 400 or the Lower Oil Price Bill; House Bill 3003 or the Renationalize Petron Bill; House Bill 3004 or the unbundling oil prices bill; House Bill 3005 or the centralized procurement of petroleum bill; and House Bill 3006 to regulate the downstream oil industry.

“These bills were first filed by Bayan Muna in the previous Congresses, and we hope that now they will finally be enacted to stop runaway oil prices,” said Castro.

“As can be seen, there are numerous House measures just waiting to be prioritized by Malacanang and the House leadership. This bill package, when made into law, can lower oil prices, cause a domino effect in lowering basic products and services, and at least alleviate the suffering of consumers,” said Castro.

In separate advisories last Monday, oil firms increased gasoline prices by P0.20 per liter and diesel prices by P0.40 per liter.

The price hikes announcement by Petron, Shell, Caltex, Total, Unioil, Phoenix, PTT, Seaoil, and Cleanfuel marked the 10th consecutive week of increases for diesel and kerosene and the ninth for gasoline.

These price adjustments resulted in a year-to-date net increase of P15.30 per liter for gasoline, P10.70 per liter for diesel, and P7.74 per liter for kerosene.

Movements in the world oil market affect local pump prices. Saudi Arabia and Russia have extended their oil export cuts by one million daily and 300,000 barrels per day, respectively.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes