Higher fuel prices in Bohol compared to neighboring areas continue to hurt motorists, prompting another round of probe in aid of legislation.
This time, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan decided to create an Ad Hoc committee upon the motion of SP Member Tomas Abapo Jr. to investigate the matter in aid of legislation.
In prelude, Abapo delivered a privilege speech during the regular session on Friday citing a concern from a Tagbilaran City resident who raised an issue on the disparity of the fuel prices in Tagbilaran City and the neighboring area, Dumaguete City.
Abapo then moved for another investigation on the noticeable difference of pump prices of petroleum products in Bohol, particularly Tagbilaran City, compared with those in other provinces.
Composing the Ad Hoc committee are SP Members Venzencio Arcamo and Abel Damalerio of first district, Abapo himself of the second district and Elpidio Jala of the third district.
Abapo cited the concern of Jose Cagas, a resident of barangay Booy in Tagbilaran City, saying that diesel prices in Dumaguete City were at P29.70 per liter while it was being sold for P33.70 per liter in Tagbilaran City on June 4.
On the same day, unleaded gasoline in Dumaguete was at P38.92 per liter while it was P41.82 per liter in Tagbilaran City, marking a P3 difference.
It raised a concern, considering that Tagbilaran City and Dumaguete City are just near each other.
Abapo noted that the SP already investigated the same subject matter last year but it has to be looked into again as it shows it remained unresolved.
The new investigation would have been led by the SP Committee on Trade and Industry chaired by SP Member Niño Rey Boniel.
However, Boniel’s absence due to the ongoing investigation on the alleged murder of the legislator’s wife has prompted the SP to task the newly created Ad Hoc committee to conduct the probe.
SP Member Alexie Tutor, who is the vice-chair of the trade and industry committee, could have supposedly replaced Boniel in leading the probe but she inhibited for the reason that she owns a gasoline station.
On the other hand, it can be noticed that the disparity of fuel prices in Bohol and those in other provinces has narrowed from P8 to P12 per liter monitored in 2014 to an average of P3 at present.
However, the provincial leaders noted on the nil difference despite the entry of some independent players.
Gov. Edgar Chatto even threatened then to elevate the matter to the Malacañang and might file cases against those found to be manipulating the prices of fuel.
Chatto later consulted higher national officials, the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission to address the prevailing concern which he had been finding ways to address since his assumption as governor.
The governor relayed the matter to First District Rep. Rene Relampagos so the latter could elevate the matter to Congress and Senate.
Indeed, the DOE then sent a team to Bohol to inspect all the fuel stations in the city and the towns to verify the reports in response to the clamor of Boholanos for reduction of the disparity of prices here and the other provinces.
The series of conferences and actions by provincial leaders regarding the mounting complaints on the huge disparity of the fuel prices here compared to other areas of the country prompted the DOE to expand their monitoring coverage to the towns instead of just containing it within Tagbilaran City.
The DOE will later issue a comparison on prices of oil in past three years covering all islands, provinces, certain cities and the entire Bohol.
The location of Bohol from the refinery in Luzon is one of the factors cited for the higher prices of fuel here.
On this, the new investigation to be launched by the Ad Hoc committee created by the SP will delve into the still noticeable lower prices in Dumaguete City which is just of comparable geographical distance with Bohol from Luzon.
Another factor also to be considered is the presence of more independent players in other provinces than in Bohol.
The DOE had confirmed earlier having received several reports already about the high prices of petroleum products in Bohol.
The matter had also been raised by Chatto before the Regional Development Council as early as his first term as governor.
For a time in 2014 when the issue made headlines, the Big Three – Petron, Shell and Caltex dropped the prices but the problem recurred later.
The previous Sangguniang Panlungsod of Tagbilaran City had also conducted its own investigation on the matter, yet it remains an issue up to the present.