Amid Overpricing by Oil Firms, Repeal of Deregulation Law Now a Must

Public Sentiment

Unabated oil price hikes and unresolved allegations of overpricing have contributed the public sentiment against the Oil Deregulation Law (Republic Act 8479). Even the conservative Consumer and Oil Price Watch (COPW) has somewhat backtracked from its strong pro-deregulation stance. At first, the self-styled consumer group called for regulation, but in a later paid ad, it toned down its position to amending certain provisions of the law. Meanwhile, the House’s energy committee under Rep. Mikey Arroyo has been forced to concede to public opinion and demanded an audit of the oil firms.

Despite these generally favorable developments, consumers and advocates of regulating the oil industry must not hold back in the campaign to repeal the law. At present, the prevailing view among policymakers and the mainstream media is either the law just needs fine-tuning or that it is not properly implemented.

In a sense, the DOE’s Reyes is correct in his counter to critics that he could not curb overpricing because of deregulation. But it does not mean he must not be held accountable for conspiring with and defending the Big Three.

Curbing Overpricing

At the same time, it is wrong to assume that replacing Reyes and/or amending the Oil Deregulation Law would ensure reasonable oil prices. This is because allowing the DOE to determine and impose fair oil prices directly hits the very heart of deregulation, which is non-state intrusion in supposedly market-dictated prices. Thus, the only way overpricing can be averted or at least lessened is by repealing the law and instituting a new law to regulate the oil industry.

There are pending bills at the House to make this possible. House Bills filed by the progressive bloc of party-list groups, for instance, call for the repeal of the law (HB 3029), centralized importation of oil (HB 3030), and re-nationalization of Petron (HB 3031). These proposals have been pending deliberation since November 2008 and have reportedly been merged with other bills that seek to amend the Oil Deregulation Law.

To be sure, the legislative wheels will not roll unless consumers strongly and actively press lawmakers to act on these bills. The expected continuing uptrend in global oil prices in the months ahead amid strong public opinion against overpricing gives favorable conditions for a compelling consumer lobby against the law. (

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