TAGBILARAN CITY – What’s happening on the planned court action against oil dealers in the province who allegedly charged high prices on petroleum products? This question surfaced lately even as the oil end users are enjoying the lowest oil prices in town due to the plunge of prices in the international market. But how long these (prices) keep on down is another question as the end-user expressed fears these might go up after the holiday seasons, some concerned citizens said in interviews.
Former governor Atty. Victor de la Serna has reportedly endorsed the filing of case against the local dealers for allegedly imposing high oil prices in past months. But local dealers deny they manipulate oil prices on petroleum products they sell but it’s their national offices that call the shots. A case in point is that top executives of Chevron Phils. (formerly Caltex) are reportedly “facing arrest for the alleged crime of monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade punishable under Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code.”
The report said that Pasay City court issued warrant of arrest and “subsequent manhunt by the National Bureau of Investigation of Chevron officials Timothy D. Leveille, Rebecca A. Alivio, Steven T. Mulvaney, Aner M. Anda, Randall H. Johnson, Armando Diaz, Glenn A. Lynch, Leo Vasco G. Dagamac and Husain Shibly Latiff.” The Pasay City Regional Trial Court, Branch 114, likewise issued a hold departure order (HDO) against the Chevron executives.
Other Chevron officials charged for violating Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code have already posted bail and were identified as Ramon R. Ortiz, Frumencio A. Deguito, Carlito G. Lopez, Carol A. Bautista and Rafael C. Medina Jr, the report said.
The case stemmed from a complaint filed against Chevron by the Petroleum Distributions and Services Corporation (PDSC), a Filipino-owned small gasoline dealer company presently based in Pasay City.
Interestingly, Limcaco said the case could open some of these secrets in a civil case won by PDSC against Caltex last May 24, 2013. In that case filed by PDSC against the oil giant over unfair competition and damages, it was ruled by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, Branch 119 that “the pump prices of fuel are not actually at the discretion of the dealer because they are compelled to follow the prices directed by Chevron’s marketing representatives. PDSC is required to monitor the prices and is also directed to rollback or increase prices according to Chevron through the marketing representatives.” In its decision, the Court ordered Chevron to pay PDSC large punitive damages.
According to Limcaco, the solution to these bad practices is for congress to improve the system by revising the current oil deregulation law. “To protect the Filipino consumer, congress must establish an effective Regulatory Board for oil products with real powers that is capable of protecting Filipinos from overpricing and price manipulation by the big oil companies.” Limcaco continued, “Even the transport industry is more regulated than the oil industry, and oil is the most important commodity in the country today.”
Limcaco further explained, “Whether we realize it or not, every aspect of our society depends on oil products. Oil is not just about transportation, it also affects the pricing for a wide range of industries and commodities including power generation, food, clothing, plastics, electronics, etc., the cost of everything is connected in some way to oil.”
Amid the complicated circumstances surrounding the unusually high fuel prices in Bohol, some provincial board is concocting a plan to literally boycott the gas pump stations to further put pressure on the alleged “cartelized” Big 3 — Caltex, Petron and Shell — to bring their oil prices down.
The provincial government posed this “threat” if the Big 3 remain unyielding to the public demand in reducing further their petroleum products.
Earlier on, the provincial government as proposed by provincial Board Member Atty. Tomas D. Abapo, Jr. that, if feasible, it will put up its own gas pumping stations to compete with the commercial dealers, mostly run by the Big 3. Abapo’s proposal, which is welcomed by his colleagues, is now under study by the Provincial Legal Office and the Provincial Planning and Development Office.
The plan is to halt procuring gasoline or diesel supply from the “Big 3” for the provincial government’s use for its numerous heavy equipment and service vehicles. This means millions of pesos will definitely be lost from the “Big 3” income from sales annually, if the said plan pushes through, a BM, whose identity is withheld, said.
Another bold step under the said plan is for the provincial chief executive to exert influence to local government units in the municipalities to shift their procurement or patronize the “white stations” fuel supply from the “Big 3” suppliers.