Public-transport drivers and operators in several urban areas across the country – including Makati City – denounce the measly oil-price rollbacks by the Big Three oil companies, as well as their “manipulation” of the prices of oil and gas products, such as LPG, to the detriment of unorganized and ordinary consumers.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — The announced price rollbacks by oil companies did not prevent a diverse group of transport organizations called Task Force July 13 from pushing through with a transport strike on Monday to protest the “unhampered greed of the oil companies,” especially the Big Three: Petron, Pilipinas Shell and Caltex/Chevron.
On Monday, July 13, public-transport drivers and operators from various jeepney, FX, truck and tricycle routes in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog, parts of Bulacan, Bicol, Sockssargen, Panay and Guimaras Islands, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City will hold a transport strike.
In Metro Manila, Task Force July 13 said there will be strike centers in Cubao, Commonwealth, Batasan Rd., Novaliches, Monumento, Pier South, Alabang, Pacita in Laguna, Tanay, Taytay and Angono in Rizal, and in Makati, too.
The transport strike on Monday will not be nationwide, said George San Mateo, secretary-general of Piston, but in other regions likeminded drivers, operators and supportive commuters would hold a rally in their urban centers as in Baguio City and Cebu City.
Piston members protesting in Quezon City last week en route to the DOE offices in Fort Bonifacio. (Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
Their demands are to put an end to the “greedy and manipulative” oil price increases by the big three oil companies, the regulation of the oil industry, and the removal of the value-added tax (VAT) on oil. The task force also excoriated the new World Bank-proposed excise tax on oil.
Led by the Pagkakaisa ng Mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston, or the Unified Associations of Drivers and Operators Nationwide), Task Force July 13 brings together old and new associations and federations of jeepney, truck and tricycle drivers and operators and some leaders of bus employees’ unions.
Against Greedy Overpricing
“Despite their make-believe rollbacks, we condemn the big three’s greed as manifested in their overpricing of oil products,” said Steve Ranjo, president of Piston. As of June 2009, estimates of overprice in oil products being sold in the Philippines ranged from P4.31 ($0.89) per liter to NEDA chief Ralph Recto’s P8 ($0.165).
Yet, even if the NEDA said there has indeed been overpricing, “our demand for a real and substantial rollback has been falling on deaf ears,” Ranjo said. He cited Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, who either absolves oil companies from likely wrongdoing or cites the Oil Deregulation Law as an excuse for inaction.
Last week, Piston drove a protest caravan to the Department of Energy to call for the agency’s shutdown for ignoring or defending the manipulative overpricing of oil.
Compared to the estimated overprice in oil products being sold in the country, Ranjo said the rollback announced recently and before that were too measly to truly matter.
“Besides, the oil companies themselves have admitted that their current rollback had not really been implemented by many gasoline stations.” In short, said the Piston leader, the said rollbacks are just a deceitful public-relations scheme by the oil companies in light of the protests against their greed.
Aside from overpricing, the big three are employing other means of price manipulation to further increase their profits, said Ranjo. These include widely varying the prices of oil products in different municipalities, provinces, cities and regions. For instance, when most gasoline stations in Manila were selling a liter of diesel at P25 ($0.517), Ranjo said in North Fairview it was only P21 ($0.434). At the time, it was selling for P31 ($0.64) in Cebu City.
In a statement, Piston noted that oil companies are also manipulating the prices of different oil products. To ensure their overpricing and excessive profit-taking, oil companies would grant paltry rollbacks in prices of diesel and gasoline but at the same time jack up the prices of related oil products such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), said Piston.
LPG prices in the country continue to increase, now ranging from P480 to P570 ($9.94 to $11.80) per tank, despite the falling prices in the world market. “All these products came from the same crude petroleum. The costs of production (refining and processing of residuals) have hardly changed. Why do oil companies increase the prices of some products and roll back the price of others?” the group asked.