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Marcos urged to certify as urgent bills on oil regulation

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PHILIPPINE STAR/ WALTER BOLLOZOS

By Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. should certify as urgent a package of bills that seeks to lower oil prices as another round of fuel price increases looms, a congressman said on Monday.

The Lower Oil Prices bill package, which seeks to regulate the oil industry and centralize the procurement of oil products, could lead to lower petroleum prices if enacted into law, Deputy Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. France L. Castro said in a statement.

“This package includes critical measures such as House Bill No. 400 or the Lower Oil Price bill, House Bill No. 3003 to renationalize Petron, House Bill No. 3004 to unbundle oil prices, House Bill No. 3005 for centralized procurement of petroleum and House Bill No. 3006 to regulate the downstream oil industry,” she said.

“This bill package, when made into law, can lower oil prices, cause a domino effect in lowering basic products and services, and at least alleviate the suffering of consumers,” she added.

Fuel retailers on Monday announced an increase in oil prices for the fourth straight week, due to geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, according to the Department of Energy (DoE).

“Geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, an unexpectedly large withdrawal in US crude inventories and optimistic forecasts for summer fuel demand have all contributed to pushing prices in oil products higher,” Energy Director Rodela I. Romero said in a statement last week.

Oil companies said prices on Tuesday would jump by P1.60 per liter of gasoline, P0.65 per liter of diesel and P0.60 per liter of kerosene.

The Philippines deregulated the oil industry in 1998, ultimately resulting in fuel price increases “to go unchecked,” according to House Bill No. 3006 filed by Party-list Reps. France L. Castro, Arlene D. Brosas and Raoul Danniel A. Manuel in 2022.

The bill seeks to create a petroleum regulatory council to police against drastic increases in oil prices and prevent runaway price hikes.

The lawmakers are also seeking to centralize the procurement of imported crude oil by creating a national petroleum exchange system, which would allow the country to buy the cheapest crude oil in the world market.

Under House Bill No. 3005, the National Petroleum Exchange Corp. must get “the best prices” for imported oil products while also ensuring adequate supply.

Also part of the bill package is House Bill No. 400, which will cut the excise tax on petroleum products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law and exempt these from value-added tax.

The measure could slash P6 per liter of diesel and P5.35 per liter of unleaded gasoline, the authors said in the bill’s explanatory note.

The lawmakers are also seeking to make the price-setting by petroleum companies transparent by forcing them to provide a detailed computation of costs.

Under House Bill No. 3004, oil companies must provide a breakdown of costs affecting oil prices such as import and freight costs, refining charges and their profit margins on petroleum products before the DoE Oil Industry Management Bureau and House energy committee.

Legislators are also looking at renationalizing Petron Corp. so the government could use it to set “fair and regulated prices.”

Petron Corp. did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

Under the measure, the Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) will reacquire Petron within four years using funds from the national budget.

“Malacañang and the House leadership must prioritize these measures,” Ms. Castro said. “It’s time to stop runaway oil prices and provide real relief to our people.”

She said these reforms should not be delayed because spiraling fuel prices have “far-reaching consequences” on the economy.

“These price hikes don’t just affect transportation; they inflate the costs of basic goods and services, further burdening our already struggling populace,” she added.

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