DOE backs calls to review Oil Deregulation Law to see how oil firms set prices


Posted at Jul 19 2022 02:07 PM

Motorists queue for fuel at a gas station in Quezon City on April 19, 2022, after another oil price hike. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Motorists queue for fuel at a gas station in Quezon City on April 19, 2022, after another oil price hike. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Energy (DOE) on Tuesday said it supports calls to review the Oil Deregulation Law amid the recent spike in fuel prices. 

Rino Abad, director of the agency's Oil Industry Management Bureau, said the review seeks to "clarify" the role of industry players on minimum inventory reserve, and give government the power to require oil companies to be transparent when implementing oil price hikes or rollbacks. 

"Ang nandyan po kasi ngayon sa kanilang inventory ay purely... commercial inventory but they are not really designed to anticipate supply disruption," Abad said in a televised briefing. 

(What's there right now in their inventory is for commercial only.)

"Kapag mayroong aspeto ng security of supply, kailangan po natin... idagdag sa batas na maging sistema, even sa private sector, 'yung pagkakaroon ng contribution in securing the supply of petroleum products ng Pilipinas," he added. 

(If there is a security of supply aspect, we need to include it in our law so it would become a system — that even the private sector would contribute in securing the country's supply of petroleum products.) 

In terms of transparency, Abad proposed that oil companies submit a report that would "shed light" on their computation of price adjustments.

This will help the agency understand how fuel prices are set, and give the DOE space to "correct" fuel prices when it is "too high" in different parts of the country.

"Yan ay sinususugan natin kung may kapangyarihan tayong makakuha ng data na yan, magkakaroon tayo ng analysis sa mga luga-lugar kung saan sa tingin natin ay masyadong mataas ang prices," said the official. 

(We are looking into that, to have the power the get that data. Once we get it, we will have an analysis of why the prices are high in different places.)

"Ang basic premise po dito ay hindi natin maintindihan yan kung hindi natin makuha muna o maintindihan yung paraan ng kanilang pagko-compute at rason kung bakit ganoon ang kanilang computation sa kanilang prices," he added. 

(The basic premise is: we cannot understand this unless we get the basis of their computation regarding fuel prices.)

Fuel prices fell for the third straight week on Tuesday, but the DOE said this was because of China's strict COVID-19 lockdowns and interest rate hikes by central banks around the world, which weighed down energy demand. 

Republic Act 8479 or the “Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998" removed the government's power to regulate prices, and scrapped the Oil Price Stabilization Fund, which was previously used to dampen price shocks.

A House committee in March approved amendments to the law. A similar Senate bill is still pending at the committee level. 

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said the President approved another round of fuel subsidies for transport drivers — still P6,500 — but for targeted beneficiaries only.