By BENJIE OLIVEROS
There have been mixed reactions from the public regarding the National Day of Protest last March 15. While in the main, people are more aware and supportive of protest actions against oil price increases compared to before, still, there were some who expressed either indifference or negative reactions.
In the “man-on-the-street” interviews of the major networks and the comments posted in online news websites, there were those who said that they sympathize with the protest action but could not join because they have to work. There were also those who said nothing would result from protest actions.
What struck me most were the comments from some drivers of jeepney and other public utility vehicles because they are the ones who directly feel the impact of increases in pump prices. There was one who complained about how the oil price spikes have cut down his earnings to half but still, he said, he has to ply his route to be able to earn; another said he did not join the protest because he is not a member of Piston.
Well, if this would be the attitude of a lot of people, then we just might as well swallow the oil price spikes. Remember, there is no limit to the greed of oil companies. In 2008, at the height of the economic and financial crisis, what stopped oil companies from further increasing their prices were the considerable lowering of oil and gas consumption as the public started cutting down on leisure travels and use of their cars and the mounting protests against the greed of Wall Street and that of other capitalists.
Indifference would only encourage oil companies more and would make governments oblivious to the sufferings of the people. The US and Philippine governments alike have been brushing aside calls for regulating oil prices saying they could not do anything about it. But the Obama administration, fearing that Barack Obama might lose his reelection bid in the upcoming presidential elections, has been frantically searching for ways to bring down oil prices, even threatening to remove subsidies to oil companies. (yes, giant oil companies receive subsidies from the US government) It has increased the country’s oil production capacity by multiplying its active oil wells four-fold. Now, it is considering tapping into US strategic oil reserves. However, the Obama administration’s measures are ineffective because the law of supply and demand does not work in today’s era when only a few giant oil companies control the whole process of production and distribution of oil and gas and they act as one in setting world oil prices.
As far as the Aquino government is concerned, it was beginning to act when the National Day of Protest was looming. It appealed to oil companies not to increase pump prices three days before the March 15 protest action. On the other hand, it also threatened public utility drivers who were planning to participate in the protest action with revocation of franchises. And the deployment of military and police forces in designated protest centers was an overkill.
Now oil companies are back with their merry ways. Another round of increases in pump prices, the ninth since the year began, was announced only today.
Imagine what we could accomplish if our protest actions become bigger. We could force the hand of the Aquino government to act more decisively to address the issue of oil price spikes. At the minimum, we could delay or reduce the increase in pump prices. At the maximum, we could force the government to review, or better still, to repeal the Oil Deregulation law.
But if we would not act, let us see how far our meager income could absorb the spikes in oil prices. For sure, there is no limit to the greed of oil companies and the subservience of governments. So we could either continue feeding their greed for profits or give them what they deserve: a concrete expression of the people’s anger.