MANILA, Philippines – Petron Corp. and Seaoil Philippines Inc. raised their gasoline prices yesterday by P1 and diesel by 75 centavos per liter.
The oil firms took the cue from Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. and Total Philippines Corp., which announced their upward price adjustments the other day.
Petron, Shell and Total implemented the increase April 14, while Seaoil will carry out the price movement April 15.
Shell, in its media advisory, said the latest price increase was made to reflect higher product costs.
Oil companies are adjusting their prices on a weekly basis to become more transparent on oil pricing.
Meanwhile, Consumer & Oil Price Watch (COPW) chairman Raul Concepcion has called for the adoption of measures that would expand the country’s tax base.
Concepcion said there is a need to accredit a third party company that would conduct tests on shipments of goods coming in to the country.
“(There should be) accreditation of SGS (Societe Generale de Surveillance) so that even before the shipment arrives, advance information on the volume and value of the cargo are reported to determine the correct amount of taxes and duties due from importers,” he said.
“Misdeclaration or undervaluation will easily be detected.”
Concepcion also urged the government to create an independent oversight body composed of the Department of Finance (DOF), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Customs (BOC), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Bankers Association of the Phils. (BAP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to monitor tax compliance and recommend measures to further improve tax administration.
He said there is also a need for all cash registers to be registered with the BIR.
“This will prevent the use of non BIR-registered cash registers especially by the underground economy,” he said.
Concepcion said the BIR must ensure that all business establishments obtain a VAT (value-added tax) number printed on their invoices and state the beginning and ending range of serial numbers that will be used for the next three to six months.
“These data will be published on the BIR website so that anyone can verify which companies are VAT-registered. Any business without a VAT number can be reported to the BIR,” he said.
Concepcion said the BIR must houseclean the VAT invoices on a quarterly basis.
“This will flesh out the VAT numbers used by firms who claim input VAT credits from companies which are no longer in operation,” he said.
Senators to probe pump prices
Senators agreed yesterday to conduct an inquiry into the difference on pump prices in Metro Manila and key cities nationwide.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile welcomed yesterday the proposal to look into why there is no uniform pricing of gasoline and diesel in stations in Metro Manila.
Senators also sought an explanation from the Department of Energy (DOE) on the differences in oil prices in the different gasoline stations nationwide.
The Senate will also summon officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to shed light on the earnings and taxes imposed on major oil companies.
The Senate Committee on Energy chaired by Sen. Gregorio Honasan is to conduct the hearings.
In a privilege speech, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said two gasoline stations in Las Piñas, one supplied by Petron and another by Shell, offer different prices for diesel.
“They are only 500 meters apart and are located on the same avenue – Zapote Road. But the price difference is P1.35,” he said.
Pimentel said the Petron gasoline station in Zapote Road offers P23.50 per liter of diesel, while the Shell gas station on the same road offers P24.85 per liter of diesel fuel.
“How does one explain it (price difference) especially if they are located a few meters from each other?
“Does it not bother the Department of Energy (and Energy) Regulatory Board that these price distortions occur?”
Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. called on major oil players to explain in detail how they arrived at the adjustments that caused the series of price hikes on petroleum products recently.
“There is an uproar whenever oil companies hike their prices because the public has no idea how these companies adjust oil prices,” he said.
“The explanation ‘due to price increase in the world market’ no longer suffices because there is a suspicion that adjustments do not reflect price movements in the world market accurately.”
Villar said many people were surprised with the increases that took effect last month despite the recorded decrease in prices in the world market.
“Oil companies should be open and aboveboard with regard to their pricing,” he said.
“This is to thwart suspicion that these firms are raking in huge profits in this time when people are suffering from the effects of the global financial crisis.”
Villar said the financial records of oil firms must also be audited and sanctions imposed in the event irregularity on the pricing of oil products is found.
“The Department of Energy is well within its power to examine the books of accounts of oil companies to see whether they are unjustly raising oil prices at the expense of consumers,” he said.
Sen. Francis Escudero also demanded that Malacañang and the DOE conduct an audit of the books of oil firms amid the latest round of price hikes in petroleum products.
“What happened to the Palace’s order two weeks ago to conduct an audit on oil firms’ books? Or with Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes’ similar promise two years back?” he asked.
Escudero said the supposed audit “that never happened” was intended to check for signs of alleged price manipulation by oil firms.
“If our government cannot even understand how these oil companies work, then we are doomed,” he said.
“We will always be at the mercy of these giant corporations. We will always take their statements at face value. Why? Because every time oil prices go up, our top officials in government scratch their heads in total cluelessness.” –Donnabelle Gatdula and Christina Mendez, Philippine Star