Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday urged the Palace not to back down to pressure from business and other interest groups to lift the oil price freeze in typhoon-stricken calamity areas.
“The current turmoil in the global economy has seen governments taking on a more activist, regulatory role. We can do no less. I call on my colleagues in Congress to speedily act on proposals that aim to review the oil deregulation law,” the 40-year old lawmaker said.
Escudero issued the call after foreign and local business groups demanded the scrapping of Executive Order 839 which directed oil companies to retain the level of prices of petroleum products at the Oct. 15 level for the duration of state of emergency in Luzon.
The order was issued to prevent a surge in consumer prices following the devastation wrought by the series of powerful storms and typhoons on Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon in the past month. Oil prices have also risen due to the improving global economic situation.
“Our country’s poor and dwindling middle class bear the burden most and they constitute a far greater portion of the population. Why can’t these oil companies wait until our people have recovered from these disasters? This is, after all, a remedial and temporary action by government,” Escudero said.
“The oil price freeze is the least that government can do for the people to alleviate their suffering,” he said.
Escudero pointed out that crude oil only cost $10 per barrel in January 1999. Before the credit crisis struck the US last year, there were projections that fuel prices could even shoot past the $100 level because of increased demand amid the dwindling supply of oil worldwide.
While the country has reduced its dependence on imported oil from 92 percent in 1973 to less than half today, he said that the poor is hardest hit by any increase in fuel prices.
Escudero urged Congress to act immediately on proposed amendments that will plug loopholes in, if not repeal, the oil deregulation law. He pointed out that when Congress passed the law in 1998, the expectation was oil prices would decline because of competition among the oil companies.
“The law has become an artifact. We have to act quickly before the forecasts of oil prices soaring, once again, above the US$100 level become a reality when the global economy recovers from today’s crisis,” he said.#