PRESIDENT Arroyo has ordered officials to look into the books of oil distributors following another round of increases in pump prices last week, which could have been unnecessary, an official said yesterday.
Mrs. Arroyo ordered the Energy Department to check on the price increases, and the Justice Department to file profiteering charges if warranted, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said.
“The President wants these oil companies to explain to the public the reason for their price increase,” Remonde said.
“Appropriate charges would be filed against them “if their explanation is not sufficient,” he said.
Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes gave the oil companies 48 hours to justify their increases the week before, but they raised their prices again over the weekend before they could do so.
On Saturday, Shell, Chevron, Flying V and Total Philippines raised diesel and kerosene prices by P1 and gasoline by P0.50 per liter, citing higher crude prices abroad.
Seaoil Philippines and PTT followed suit at dawn yesterday.
Unleaded gasoline is now retailing at P30.25 to P40.35 per liter, E-10 at P31.25 to P38.22, diesel at P23.25 to P30.28, and kerosene at P31.10 to P34.73.
Flying V said it needed to raise prices after imported crude breached $50 a barrel last week, warning domestic prices would continue rising if the price of imported crude continued to increase.
Oil distributors yesterday supported calls to charge companies found profiteering, but said profiteering should be clearly defined to avoid penalizing those making legitimate profits.
“We support the move of President Arroyo, [but] what is the definition of profiteering?”
Flying V spokesman Joey Cruz said.
“There should be a formulated definition to serve as a guide.”
Another oil company official said oil distributors had always been cooperating with the government.
“We hope they will see that the returns of the oil companies have been very low,” he said.
“In fact, some companies even posted losses in 2008.”
The government should start regulating the oil industry again if it wanted to continue intervening over prices, the official said.
“If they want to start dictating our level of profits, then they should start regulating us again,” he said.
“In fact, the oil companies were earning more when they were being regulated.” –Joyce Pangco Pañares and Alena Mae S. Flores, Manila Standard Today