Reyes, Nograles, Mikey on oil price hike: All bark, no bite

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Congressman Mikey Arroyo seemed to have their roles down pat by now. When the big three oil companies raised oil prices yet again this Oct. 20, despite the disaster-wracked times and despite  charges of persistent overpricing thrown their way, these three government officials just continued their role – speak like they want to change the situation but allow the oil companies to have their own profitable way in the end.

As the Kilusang Mayo Uno said in a statement, this time, “What are their proposals? Speaker Nograles is blaming Energy Sec. Angelo Reyes for not ‘appealing for compassion’ from the Big Three; Cong. Arroyo is pushing for the audit of the Big Three’s financial books. Nothing will come out of it.”

And Secretary Reyes? After citing the Oil Deregulation Law that allows the oil companies to jack up prices at will, he wrote two government departments to ask whether or not the DOE could implement price controls over local petroleum products.

He was asking for permission or was it just a rhetorical question. He himself had loaded his plea with the likely excuse to disallow oil price controls. Can the energy secretary implement price controls over local petroleum products, he wrote, “despite the economic, legal and financial implications of such move?”

If they truly want to change the situation, these three have the means to start that. Nograles and Arroyo are both influential lawmakers, and the House of Representatives has never lacked for proposed bills from the progressive party-list representatives to deactivate the oil deregulation law.

“Asking compassion from greedy profiteers is not just lame, it is stupid. Sec. Reyes has released a statement – just this month! – saying ‘everything is in order’ in the Big Three’s books, where a lot of hocus-pocus can be done to hide the Big Three’s profiteering schemes,” said a KMU statement.

Meanwhile, despite the seemingly sensitive noises made by Reyes, Nograles and Arroyo, there is still no decisive action yet against the recent oil price hike.

For some real bite toward addressing the problem of the oil cartel, KMU has some modest proposals:

(1) Make the government the sole importer of crude oil and petroleum products, to compel it to look for other cheaper sources of oil;

(2) Forge special agreements with government-owned oil companies abroad, even devise  other forms of exchange such as commodity swaps ;

(3) Establish a buffer fund to be financed by the government’s earnings and savings in its increased participation in the downstream oil industry;

(4) Enter into the business of storing, refining and selling petroleum products. The earnings and savings from these can also be placed in the proposed buffer fund; and

(5) Collect from the Big Three  their financial obligations, including the P21 billion in unpaid custom duties of Shell.

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