Militants pressed Congress to probe

Militants pressed Congress to probe
Big 3’s P 138 million daily overpricing

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday urged senators and congressmen to conduct a full-blown inquiry on the alleged day-to-day overpricing activities of big three oil companies in the country, namely Petron Corporation, Pilipinas Shell and Chevron Philippines, which the group said were robbing Filipino consumers some P 138.14 million everyday.

“The Big Three is raking some P 167 million in additional profits everyday due to overpricing and other forms of cartel operations. Congress must do something do to stop this extreme greed and it must do its assignment now, not tomorrow, not next week and definitely not next month,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

Quoting the study made by the leftwing umbrella alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Hicap said Petron Corporation accounted for P 64.63 million in total windfall from overpricing of petroleum products daily, followed by Pilipinas Shell with P 49.94 million and Chevron Philippines with a daily take of P 23.55 million in total profits from overpricing per day.

The Pamalakaya leader said Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, chair of the House Committee on Energy is not doing his job as head of the committee, adding that until now, no investigation has been made on the alleged overpricing and other manipulative practices of the oil cartel.

“Rep. Arroyo is the chair of House Committee on Energy, but he is nothing but a white elephant in Congress. The deafening silence of Congress on the money making scheme of the Big Three makes it a partner in crime of the oil cartel that includes Malacañang and key officials of the Department of Energy,” added Hicap.

Based on the studies made by Bayan, as of mid June this year, oil products are overpriced by an average of P 4.31 per liter. The group’s overpricing estimates differ from that of NEDA Secretary Ralph Recto because of the methodology used. While Recto said gasoline prices are overpriced by P 8 per liter, Bayan’s computation were arrived by computing the weighted average retail price of all petroleum products including gasoline, kerosene, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

“If that is the case, then prices of diesel should be sold at P 25 per liter and regular gasoline by
P 36 per liter. But because it is overpriced by P 4.30 liter, prices remained at P 29 and P 40 per liter respectively,” Pamalakaya said.

The increases in the prices of petroleum products prompted Pamalakaya to call Congress to legislate a fisherfolk production subsidy bill that will compel the national government to set aside P 32-B in production subsidies to small fishermen across the country to caution the impact of successive oil price increases and the current global economic and financial crisis.

“This fighting demand of the small fisherfolk for monthly production subsidy to arrest the uncontrollable hikes in the prices of petroleum products and the global economic and financial crisis is long overdue. But this government is not taking our legitimate call seriously,” Pamalakaya vice-chair for Luzon Salvador France said in a press statement.

France recalled that the demand for production subsidy was submitted to the office Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap on July 2008. “It’s been in the office of agriculture secretary, but Secretary Yap is not doing his assignment. The small fisherfolk are been kept in the dark with regards to their legitimate crusade for production subsidy,” he said.

The Pamalakaya leader said the main purpose of the P 32-billion production subsidy is to keep the wheel of production in the fisheries sector moving, because it is currently battered by high prices of oil products and skyrocketing prices of fishing gears and equipments.

Under the annual P 32-billion production subsidy for the fisheries sector proposed by Pamalakaya, all fishermen who own a small motorized banca will receive a minimum P 4,500 monthly oil subsidy, while those who operate non-motorized banca will receive P 2,000 monthly production subsidy.

According to France, the P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture. The Pamalakaya leader said the proposed measure if approved will benefit 313,985 small fishing boat operators and will cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

Pamalakaya’s proposal for production subsidy for 630,000 non-motorized fishing boats operators across the country will cost the national government some of P1.3 billion per month or roughly P 15.67 billion per year. All in all, the total subsidy for a little over small fishermen will cost he government some P 32 billion in total production subsidies annually.

The group said 100 percent of the production subsidy for fisherfolk operators of small fishing boats will go to oil, while around 50 percent of the proposed subsidy for owners of non-motorized fishing boats will go to gas subsidy, while the rest will go to other production and food needs of small fishermen.

Pamalakaya said the production subsidies for small fishermen could be addressed by immediately and indefinitely suspending the annual payments of foreign and domestic debts that eats up more than one-third of the annual national budget.

“The proposed fishery production subsidy program is about 10 percent of the national government’s allotment to debt servicing. It would be better if we suspend if not totally stop paying these fraudulent loans acquired and accumulated by the previous and present administrations for their own corruption purposes,” the group said. #

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