THE nationwide protests on March 15 against the continuing increase in petroleum prices will be held to assert World Consumers’ Rights Day, left-leaning groups said Tuesday.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, says his group will join the seven party-list lawmakers to denounce the government’s inaction on the weekly oil price increases.
Reyes, citing a study by the think tank Ibon, said the Big Three oil firms Shell, Petron and Caltex had overpriced gasoline prices by P16.83 per liter and diesel by P8.69.
“It’s time for consumers to take a stand against the weekly oil price increases and the government’s callousness and inaction,” Reyes said.
“It is not true that the government is helpless. There is now the growing clamor to scrap, suspend or reduce the value-added tax on oil. There are pending bills in Congress that seek to control the prices of petroleum products amid the bloated international and domestic prices.”
In other developments:
• Senator Ralph Recto on Tuesday said any reduction in the 12-percent value-added tax on oil products could be replenished or replaced by the earnings of the cash-rich government-owned or -controlled corporations like Philippine Gaming Corp, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Malampaya fund
• The Energy Department said consumers may get a reprieve from the continuing increase in oil prices as it hoped the oil firms would not raise their pump prices this week because world oil prices were holding steady
• Government employees belonging to the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees said they were confident their group alone would surpass the one-million signatures being collected to call on President Benigno Aquino III to remove the value-added tax on oil products to bring their prices down
• The Metro Manila Police said protesters joining the planned protests on March 15 will be arrested and charged if caught lying face down on any street to block traffic.
Gabriela’s Emmi de Jesus said the price of crude was at P48.10 a liter, gasoline at P57.75, and liquefied petroleum gas at P835 to P919 per 11-kilogram cylinder as of March 8.
“With the yet another increase, the price of diesel will reach P50 per liter and gasoline P60 per gasoline,” she said.
“In 10 weeks alone this year gasoline prices increased eight times. The series of increases brought an average increase of P3.20 per liter of crude and P5.85 per liter of gasoline and P190 for LPG per cylinder.”
As a result, De Jesus said, the income of drivers was reduced by P96 per day because he spends a total of P1,443 for gasoline, she said.
“Estimates of domestic overpricing have ranged from P8.61 for diesel to P16.83 for gasoline based on the studies by Bayan on a rule of thumb for Dubai crude and foreign exchange fluctuations,” Reyes said.
“An April 2009 NEDA presentation using straight line interpolation showed an unexplained discrepancy between global and local price movements amounting to P6.91 to P8.69 per liter of premium and unleaded gasoline.
“Oil consumers are faced with bloated global and local oil prices. On top of this, the government imposes an oppressive 12-percent value- added tax on oil. The VAT on oil is unjust considering that the government is earning windfall revenues from manipulated oil prices and the peoples’ suffering. That’s adding insult to injury.” Reyes said.