The Department of Energy (DOE) on Tuesday, November 2, advised Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco to flex city hall's muscles and pressure fuel dealers in the city into lowering pump prices.
Climaco disclosed this after her online meeting with Oil Industry Management Bureau director Rino Abad and local stakeholders who have been complaining about what they called exorbitant fuel prices in Zamboanga City.
Fuel costs in Zamboanga are more or less P10 higher compared to prevailing prices in neighboring cities and provinces, according to Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce Industry Foundation president Pedro Rufo Soliven.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has directed Abad to look into the matter after Climaco sent him a letter to complain that fuel prices in Zamboanga were the highest in Mindanao.
Abad advised city hall to convene the city's economic cluster, and meet with representatives of major oil companies and local fuel dealers so they could find ways to adjust pump prices.
Climaco said she would meet with the fuel dealers and local business leaders on Friday.
Abad also advised Climaco to involve the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).
He, however, said that freight and operating costs factored in Zamboanga's higher fuel prices. To lower these costs, Abad said, Zamboanga would need a direct import terminal with depots, which the city does not have.
Having the terminal, he said, would significantly lower transshipment costs. There are four depots and 56 fuel stations in Zamboanga City.
It was the first time Climaco met with a DOE representative, local business leaders, and other stakeholders about the city's problem on fuel prices.
But with no immediate solution to the city's problem on fuel prices in sight, Soliven called on the government to suspend the excise tax on fuel.
Soliven said, “Such is the fastest remedy."
He called on Congress to review the Oil Industry Deregulation Law that has prevented the government from regulating fuel prices.
Soliven also proposed a price-stabilization subsidy to cushion the impact of spiraling prices of fuel. – Rappler.com
Frencie Carreon is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo for Journalism Fellowship