During the first three weeks of January alone, the three biggest oil companies have increased the price of diesel by P2.70 ($0.062) per liter, regular gasoline by P2.60 ($0.60) per liter, unleaded gasoline by P2.20 ($0.51) per liter and kerosene by P2.50 ($0.058) per liter.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Tension is building up among the public transport workers and the general public over the unabated oil overpricing, said George San Mateo, national president of transport group Piston. Asking for the people’s support and understanding, San Mateo announced that they are now preparing for stronger protest actions, including a transport strike against oil price hikes, to pressure the Aquino government to act decisively against overpricing. “It is not just for us drivers but also for most Filipinos,” he said.
Oil prices rose three times in just the first half of January. In all of these times, the presence of the government has not been felt, members of transport group Piston and women’s group Gabriela decried in separate protest actions recently.
San Mateo lamented that the Aquino government is just leaving the Filipinos at the mercy of “greedy oil companies” which, he said, have many times been quick to increase their prices of oil but too slow and too stingy in rolling it back when their excuses for quickly jacking it up no longer seem to apply.
Worse, the Aquino government is even getting a share of the bounty from oil price hikes, as it continues to ignore the people’s long-standing pleas to scrap or temporarily suspend the Value-Added Tax collections from oil products, San Mateo said.
“All the government wants us to do is continue bearing the burden of oil price hikes. It doesn’t even consider setting a ceiling to the VAT on oil, for example” he added.
As such, San Mateo called on transport groups to strengthen their “earlier unity” to struggle for scrapping the VAT on oil products and the Oil Deregulation Law.
Pantawid Pasada no relief at all
The Department of Energy has come under fire from drivers when it announced the first oil price increase this year ahead of the actual implementation of the said increases by the oil companies. As it turned out that the government-announced increase was even higher than the amount first exacted by the oil companies.
“It’s like the DoE is paving the way for more oil price increases,” irate callers blurted out over some AM radio news programs.
In the second round of oil price hike implemented early this month, the Aquino government kept its mouth shut. But by the third hike that followed soon, amid loud groans of protests from all groups of drivers and many progressive peoples’ organizations, the Aquino government revived its Pantawid Pasada cards. Few drivers had welcomed the announcement, including even the moderate drivers’ groups.
“In believing that reloading the Pantawid Pasada cards can be of any relief, the President once again exhibits its penchant for short-sighted solutions to the unabated oil price hikes,” Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus said.
Oil is such a crucial and socially volatile product, requiring government to create strong and long-term mechanisms that will truly protect the people from the impact of oil price hikes,” the Gabriela lawmaker explained. “It takes strong political will to work for the interests and welfare of the people, especially for the marginalized and disadvantaged majority of the Filipinos. If the President cannot repeal the Oil Deregulation Law and work on the development of a national oil industry, he obviously does not deserve the confidence of those who mistakenly voted for him,” De Jesus concluded.
During the first three weeks of January alone, the three biggest oil companies have increased the price of diesel by P2.70 ($0.062) per liter, regular gasoline by P2.60 ($0.60) per liter, unleaded gasoline by P2.20 ($0.51) per liter and kerosene by P2.50 ($0.058) per liter. In the face of mounting public tension because of the increases, spokespersons of oil companies said that there might be a rollback soon.
But for that rollback to have any meaning, the oil companies should roll back its oil prices by P9 ($0.21), which was the amount estimated last year as its likely overpricing, San Mateo of Piston said. The KMU has also been calling on the government to stop the overpricing of petroleum products, as they also accuse the oil companies of having overpriced their products by as much as P9.00 ($0.21) per liter in August last year.
Oil cartel taking advantage, Aquino government “conniving”
In the latest series of hikes, both Piston and KMU have accused Chevron, Shell and Petron of rapidly and untimely increasing the prices of their products as if they had not bought the oil they are selling now as early as three months ago. “They are taking advantage of every price hike in the world market to justify their immediate and huge price increases in the country,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU.
“That is one of the many ways in which the Big 3 oil companies have been overpricing their products – by immediately and exorbitantly hiking prices whenever there’s an increase in the world market. They are raking in huge profits while the people are suffering from the high prices of oil and other commodities,” he added.
The labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) called for a nationwide protest against oil overpricing in the coming weeks, saying the Aquino government should respond to the people’s demand for an immediate relief from skyrocketing prices of petroleum products.
“The Aquino government has ignored three nationwide protests which we have launched (against oil deregulation law and VAT on oil). It has actively colluded with the Big 3 in hiking the prices of petroleum products whenever the flimsiest basis for a price hike presents itself,” Labog said.
“The Filipino workers and people are suffering because wages and incomes do not rise as fast and as significantly as the prices of oil and basic goods and services. We will not hesitate to launch more nationwide protests against the overpricing of petroleum products,” Labog added.
For an ordinary jeepney driver, a peso increase in the prices of diesel meant some P210 ($4.88) reduction in their take home income after more than 10 hours of driving, San Mateo said. The loss in income also affects the jeepney operators, because often, their drivers had to beg them to reduce the day’s “boundary” (the driver’s rent for plying the jeepney) so that they can take home some money at the end of the day.