PISTON explains that the P6 fuel discount is better than demanding for a fare hike, knowing that the riding public have been complaining about low wages and increasingly high prices of goods and services.
BY MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Progressive drivers of public utility vehicles are up in arms again over the latest price hike in diesel and gasoline. Yesterday, a few hours before the Visayas was shaken by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, Filipinos all over the country were forced to bear increased pump prices, said drivers’ group PISTON. In Metro Manila, diesel prices rose to P43.80 ($1.01) per liter, gasoline to P52.90 ($1.22).
According to George San Mateo, national president of PISTON, oil prices should have been rolled back, and not increased, considering that oil prices are dipping in the world market. PISTON blamed the Aquino government’s “collusion” with what they call as oil cartel operating in the Philippines. PISTON said the Department of Energy should better explain why the oil companies are raising and not decreasing oil prices here.
Worse, according to San Mateo, oil prices in the provinces and especially in Visayas and Mindanao are even higher than those in Metro Manila. San Mateo said that a liter of diesel or gasoline in the Visayas and Mindanao is priced higher by at least P5 to P7 ($0.12 to $0.16) compared to prices in the capital. Even before an earthquake shattered parts of the Visayas, San Mateo said, the people there are being squeezed more by the oil companies. “Drivers and their families suffer more in Visayas and Mindanao,” San Mateo said.
Because of yesterday’s oil price hike, diesel in Visayas and Mindanao now reportedly costs from P48.80 to P51.80 ($1.20) a liter while gasoline is P57.90 to P59.90 ($1.39).
Govt relegated to monitoring role, with tax benefits
PISTON said the impunity with which the oil cartel in the Philippines has been increasing prices can be traced to the Oil Deregulation Law enacted since 1998. He said the deregulation of the oil industry accorded greater freedom to Shell, Chevron (Caltex) and Petron to intensify all the more their cartel-like operations. This enabled oil companies to amass big from “oil overpricing,” San Mateo said in a statement.
After enacting the Oil Deregulation Law, the Philippine government has habitually cited it as reason for failing to curb oil price hikes. PISTON urged the public to not just protest the government’s self-inflicted “helplessness” amid oil overpricing, but to denounce and pressure the Aquino government because in doing nothing, it is actually defending the oil cartel.
San Mateo noted that the longer the Philippine government shirks its responsibility over oil overpricing, the longer and the freer the oil companies could squeeze profits, and these oil companies include President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s uncle, Danding Cojuangco who owns Petron Corporation.
PISTON also zeroed in on the Philippine government’s “share in oil profits,” with the 12-percent Value-Added Tax imposed on oil products. This means that every time oil prices increase, the government’s tax take also correspondingly increases.
But all these taxes are evidently not benefitting ordinary Filipinos, as PISTON noted that these only increased the pork barrel funds that, he said, are now at the center of investigations on massive, institutionalized corruption.
On Oct 17, San Mateo said members of PISTON will conduct a picket protest at the office of the Department of Transportation and Communications, and after that, they will drive to the headquarters of Cojuangco’s Petron.
PISTON is demanding from the government a P6 fuel discount at the pump prices in all gasoline stations nationwide for all public utility vehicles. Other drivers said this is better than demanding a fare hike, knowing that the riding public have been complaining about low wages and increasingly high prices of goods and services.
“The current P1 discount that is limited only to diesel-fed jeepneys and available only in choice gasoline stations is no longer enough,” San Mateo said. He said this must be increased to P6, and should cover as well the multi-cab jeepneys using gasoline, the UV Express, metered taxi, tricycles and metro and provincial buses.”
San Mateo asked for public support and understanding as they strive to press for the P6 fuel discount rather than the fare hike being demanded by other transport groups such as the Pasang Masda. He added that it is the DOTC’s job to help the public utility drivers, by “convincing President BS Aquino to implement the fuel discount for public utility vehicles.”