By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY – Jeepney drivers and operators led by the Pinagkaisang Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) condemned in coordinated protest-actions all over the Philippines the alleged collaboration of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III and the three big oil companies in continuously overpricing its petroleum products.
Piston chapters staged transport strikes in some respective regions, paralyzing transport in some areas. The protest actions are part of the “Protestang Bayan laban sa Overpricing sa Langis at Sabwatang Noynoy-Kartel” (People’s protest against the overpricing of oil and the Noynoy-Cartel collaboration) spearheaded by progressive groups.
In a statement, Piston said that Petron, Shell and Caltex are not content with their already huge profits. The group said the three oil companies are pretending to give miniscule rollbacks in oil prices but later they would suddenly raise their prices despite the declining oil prices in the world market.
On August 8, crude oil prices sustained a major free fall in world stock markets. Some Philippine economists and legislators estimated that the oil prices should be lowered by P5 to P8 per liter. But the Aquino administration said prices can only be reduced by P2 that finally became P1.70. The government ordered an oil price rollback on August 12, to which smaller oil companies immediately complied. The big three rolled back their prices only on August 15.
According to Piston, there is a P9.00 per liter overpricing of oil since January 2008. The progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said that whenever there is an oil price hike in the world market, the big three raise the local prices higher than world market prices. “Whenever there is a price rollback in the world market, the Big 3 reduce their prices by amounts lesser than that declared by the world market”, KMU added.
Piston said that the Aquino government is not taking action against overpricing of the big three because “(T)he national revenue also increases due to the 12% Value Added Tax collection from oil.” Since 2006, the government income from VAT on oil has amounted to P48 billion annually, said Piston.
The group ascribed to this VAT windfall the reason why the Aquino administration is not scrapping the oil deregulation law which serves as license for the big three to continually jack up their prices. The group said the only role now of the government is acting as “mouthpiece and protector” of these oil cartel.
Piston-Metro Baguio spokesperson Carlito Wayas said that it is the country’s drivers who subsist on their daily income and the small jeepney operators who are most affected by the continuous price hikes of the already overpriced oil products. He said the country’s drivers lug the burden of working during the whole day until late at night just to catch up with the cost of their boundaries and fuel. “How much more if they will be apprehended for whatever traffic violation? That is another headache,” Wayas said, asking “where will we find money to reclaim our captured driver’s licenses?”
Wayas said drivers affiliated with Piston are calling for a P9.00 oil price rollback. He also said they are demanding the scrapping of oil deregulation law and the removal of the 12% VAT on oil. He urged the public to support calls for nationalizing the oil industry so that the Filipino people would have a little bit more of control on prices, as well as on its benefits.
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