AS the public continues to hurt from surging oil prices, Senator Chiz Escudero asked the Senate committee on energy to re-examine Republic Act 8479 or the Oil Deregulation Law, saying its sufficiency and effectivity may no longer be valid in the light of prevailing circumstances relative to its implementation.
Escudero filed Senate Resolution No. 217 to immediately review the Oil Deregulation Law in order to, among others, strengthen the task force of the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy in monitoring and resolving oil price hike petitions, grant the President of the Republic of the Philippines stand by powers to address the impact of any considerable increases in oil prices and redefine the concepts of cartelization and predatory pricing as provided for in Section 11 of RA No. 8479 to make them more apt to the policy of deregulation.
Escudero said RA 8479 was enacted into law in 1998, or almost ten years ago, following its original version, RA 8180, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in1997 as unconstitutional.
Under the said law, specifically section 14 thereof, the Department of Energy is given powers and prerogatives to monitor the prices of oil commodities to ensure reasonable pricing on the basis of prevailing inventory and market price by oil companies and dealers.
However, despite such powers and prerogatives, it is apparent, as observed by many sectors, that any oil price increase is implemented faster than the public can cope with, as opposed to a decrease in oil prices by oil companies and retailers.
"Always, a President is seen seeking the indulgence of oil companies to lower the prices of their oil commodities to avoid further impact on the country's economy. And that's all a president can do, but his or her hands are tied really as these oil companies slap the helpless public with high oil prices," Escudero said.
To blunt the effect of skyrocketing oil prices, Escudero said Malacañang should be granted powers to put on a stand by mode an executive order that would slash the duties on imported oil. With a few weeks to go before Congress breaks for the holidays, the groundwork for such a move should be planned out, he added.
While Escudero sought more legislative teeth for the government, he however challenged it to be up on its toes and be circumspect with the present escalating oil prices. He said that rising oil prices will depress consumption in the long run, as motorists would resort to lifestyle changes and economize on oil use to cushion the effect of expensive fuel.
"One possible effect is that increments in oil revenues will be tempered by reduction in sales, resulting in flat collection, "Escudero said.
One side effect of a regime of high oil prices is that it provides a stimulus to smuggling, Escudero said in warning government to be on the lookout for the entry of untaxed gasoline
He said Department of Energy data on oil consumption hints of oil smuggling as it showed a decrease in oil consumption from 329,000 barrels per day in 2000 to 276,500 last year.
While the number of vehicles registered increased by 271,821 in 2006, gasoline and diesel use surprisingly dropped by six percent that same year, he said.
Despite a slew of higher consumption taxes, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs are hard pressed in meeting their collection target of P765.9 billion and P228.2 billion this year.#