Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco complained about the spiralling fuel prices in the city – said to be the highest in Mindanao – and she pleaded to three Cabinet secretaries for help.
Climaco’s plea came as gasoline prices in Zamboanga increased to as much as P67 a liter this week.
She said the last thing Zamboanga needed were price increases at a time when the city was seeing another wave of COVID-19 infections.
“We currently have the highest surge [of COVID-19 cases] and sadly, the highest gas prices. We need your SOS to lower it to help our people,” read Climaco’s text message to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista on Thursday, October 21.
Bautista is the concurrent Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for the Zamboanga Peninsula.
Climaco said Cusi and Bautista responded to her on Thursday and Friday.
Bautista assured her that he would bring the matter to the attention of the COVID-19 interagency task force and the Cabinet while Cusi promised to look into the fuel prices in Zamboanga City.
Gasoline prices in Zamboanga City soared from an average P61 to P67 per liter in recent days despite complaints from the local business community and motorists.
Public utility vehicle operators and drivers said the fare rates were no longer enough but they could not just charge more from commuters without the approval of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
“This has become an emotional subject for everyone in the city. The increase in fuel prices also means higher costs of operations for us,” said gas station proprietor Oliver Ong.
Ong however said gas stations were not at liberty to set fuel prices.
The Department of Energy's comparative fuel pump prices from October 19 to October 23 reflected the average fuel prices in Zamboanga City: RON 91, P65.31 per liter; and for diesel, P57.52 per liter.
The current average prices vary in other major cities and provinces in Mindanao.
In Pagadian, RON 91 is P60.64 and diesel is P52.90 per liter.
In Zamboanga del Norte and Dipolog City, RON 91 is P56.95 and diesel is P51.95.
In Cagayan de Oro, RON 91 is P60.93 and diesel is P52.1.
In Davao City, RON 91 is P59.79 and diesel is P59.17.
In General Santos City, it is P60.58 for RON 91 and P51.65 for diesel.
Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation president Pedro Rufo Soliven said his group hoped the national government would act on the problem because the local business community has long been complaining about the relatively high fuel costs in the city.
Soliven said the matter had been brought to the attention of the Philippine Competition Commission in September. - Rappler.com
Frencie Carreon is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.