Climaco set to talk with DOE rep re Zambo’s higher fuel prices

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 2 Nov) – Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco and a designated official of the Department of Energy (DOE) are set to meet at City Hall today to discuss the unusually higher pump prices of fuel in the city.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco asks a gas boy on the high fuel prices in Zamboanga City. She made the rounds in the city’s various gas stations on Monday (1 November 2021). Photo courtesy of City Mayor’s Office

This marks the first discussion with the DOE on the matter following Climaco’s call for the agency’s intervention to lower fuel prices to help the people of Zamboanga.

While petroleum prices have been rising all over the world the past few months, Zamboanga City’s average fuel prices are higher than most cities in Mindanao by four to seven pesos per liter, according to the DOE’s weekly posts on comparative fuel pump prices in the island.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on October 22 designated lawyer Rino Abad, director of the  DOE’s Oil Industry Management Bureau, to “look into the matter” as his response to Climaco’s complaint letter on the relatively high prices of fuel from gas stations in the city.

Climaco on Monday personally did the rounds in the city’s different gas stations, asking personnel on the current prices.

The mayor said there are 56 gas stations and four bulk supply sources, with a handful of companies owning depots in Zamboanga City.

She has invited businessmen to join in the dialogue with the DOE representative.

“The fuel prices issue in Zamboanga City is getting worse,” Pedro Rufo Soliven, president of the Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce Industry Foundation, said in a telephone interview.

“We call for the suspension of excise tax on fuel,” Soliven said, adding that “such is the fastest remedy, then revisit the deregulation law as well as provide price stabilization subsidy to cushion the impact of spiraling prices.”

Gasoline station operator Oliver Ong denied collusion in the pricing among gas stations, citing that the federation of petroleum dealers of Zamboanga City discourages collusion.

“Fuel pricing is dependent on world market price. Other companies invest on freight, and engage in market competition,” he said.

Ong added: “Petron has taken steps for lowering price after the July coordination meeting. Positive steps were taken, with costs reflected at MOPS [referring to Mean of Platts Singapore] prices. Any operator is not at liberty to set a price. There’s even a sanction if we have a high price in Petron. In other stations, they are not required to follow certain restrictions in big amounts.”

When Climaco was reminded Tuesday morning that she was set to review the differential costs of gasoline and diesel with the businessmen, she acknowledged that said business group is key to the city’s economic growth and development. (Frencie Carreon / MindaNews)