Legislation in place to curb oil industry abuses

Published by rudy Date posted on May 3, 2011

WITH battles raging in various parts of the oil rich Middle East as internal power struggles intensify and spread, countries around the world are making urgent assessments of how all this would affect the price of oil – the all important lubricant for the global economy.

Here in the Philippines too there is concern on how all this would impact on the domestic scene both economically and politically. And already one legislator has fired a shot of his own across the bows aimed primarily at oil industry players thinking about taking advantage of the Midde East turmoil to jack up prices.

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have ample powers to suppress possible pricing abuses by oil industry players, states Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio

“The Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Law of 1998, or Republic Act 8479 did not render the DOE and the DOJ toothless in protecting consumers against any excessive and unwarranted increases in the prices of petroleum products,” Barzaga noted.

He said the DOE-DOJ Task Force under the law was installed precisely to enable regulators to rein in potential price gouging and other unfair trade practices by the oil firms in times such as this when there is turmoil in the parts of the world where the bulk of the world’s oil comes from.

“In fact, we have an entire chapter in the law devoted to anti-trust safeguards, prohibited acts, and remedies. We also have another chapter granting the Secretary of Energy additional surveillance and enforcement powers to ensure a competitive free market and fair pricing,” Barzaga explained.

In particular, Barzaga cited Section 14 (d) of the law, which mandates the DOE-DOJ Task
Force to investigate on its own, even without any complaint, any unreasonable rise in the prices of petroleum products and/or file the necessary legal action with the proper court or agency.

He said that under the law, the DOE-DOJ Task Force is also duty-bound to act within 30 days on any report from any person of an unreasonable rise in pump prices and take the necessary action to stop such abuses gthat are detrementail to the consumers.

He likewise cited Section 15 (b), which empowers the Secretary of Energy to order any person and require the latter to file reports or respond to specific questions, and this under oath, on any matter the Secretary may want regarding the oil industry.

Barzaga made the statement shortly after Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. categorically rejected calls for the repeal of the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Law.

“We went through a long process of finally deregulating the industry, and that was the right move. Scrapping it or changing it from deregulation to regulation is something that requires a lot of legislative time and debate, and I, for one, am certainly not in favor of it,” Belmonte said.

“The sound fundamentals of a deregulated environment are still there, and it just so happened that you have all these things happening in oil producing countries,” he added. –RANDOM JOTTINGS, Manila Times


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