NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Bohol first district Representative Edgar M. Chatto filed House Bill No. 8768 seeking to amend Republic Act No. 8479 or the Oil Deregulation Law.
“I was forced to file the bill for two reasons,” the congressman says. “First is to exact accountability and transparency in the determination of fuel prices and second is to ensure that standards on the quality of petroleum products are set and that our standards comply with international environmental standards.”
“The disparity of average fuel prices in different places within the province of Bohol and in neighboring provinces is unreasonable. It does not promote sound economy and stability in the cost of commodities which necessarily hinge upon the price of fuel within a specific jurisdiction,” Cong. Chatto adds.
Recent data shows that Tagbilaran City registers the highest prices of oil in the province despite carrying the biggest oil depot in the island. The municipality of Ubay which gets oil from the city depot and is 97 kilometers away from the capital is Php 4.40 cheaper in terms of diesel prices and Php 9.07 cheaper in premium gasoline prices. While in the neighboring municipality of Dauis, separated from the capital city by a mere 12-kilometer distance, diesel is Php 8.31 cheaper and premium gasoline by Php 10.12. Finally, 4 kilometers away from Dauis is Panglao. This tourism hotspot registers fuel prices that is cheaper than in Tagbilaran City by as much as Php 5.00 per liter for unleaded gasoline.
Outside the province but within the same Region VII, the situation of Tagbilaran City is no different. In Cebu City, there is a difference of Php 5.16 for diesel and Php 7.64 for premium gasoline. Even as compared a city outside the region, diesel in Tagbilaran City is Php 3.31 more expensive and premium gasoline by Php 5.59 in Cagayan de Oro City in Region X.
Last May 2019, the Department of Energy issued Department Order Circular No. DC2019-05-0008 or the “Revised Guidelines for the Monitoring of Prices in the Sale of Petroleum Products by the Downstream Oil Industry in the Philippines”. The circular aims to make oil price rollbacks or hikes more transparent as the detailed breakdown of the changes is shown.
To date, three regional trial courts have issued temporary restraining orders (TROs) against the implementation of the DOE Circular, arguing that it is against fostering market driven competition.
In his proposed legislation, Chatto gives the DOE the mandate to gather the oil industry market to facilitate the determination of what will constitute fair price in fuel.
He says, “in the present set up, only the industry players set the fuel prices. This is not in the law. This has to be corrected. The whole industry market which necessarily includes retailers and consumers – both individual and commercial or industrial, must be part of the process”. He also emphasizes that the Philippine Competition Commission under the Department of Justice was not yet in existence when the Oil Deregulation Law was passed.
As to the quality of products is concerned, Chatto proposes to give priority in ensuring that international standards are complied with. He emphasizes on low carbon emission considering that fossil remains one of the biggest culprits in global warming.
To date, fossil fuel combustion – for electricity, heat production and transportation – is the principal greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. The use of sustainable technology and practices should not only be encouraged but be made a priority.