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MANILA, Philippines — Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has assembled a task force to investigate the successive oil price hikes implemented by petroleum companies in the past five weeks.

He said the Department of Energy-Department of Justice (DOE-DOJ) Task Force was re-assembled to validate if there are irregularities in the recent increases in domestic oil prices.

“I have reconvened the DOE-DOJ Task Force to investigate the basis for the increase and if there are anti-competitive behavior in the series of fuel price increases,” Cusi said in a text message to The STAR.

The move to reconvene the task force, however, is an initiative by the DOE, the energy chief said.

The DOE-DOJ Task Force was first convened in 2009 to determine if oil companies could be held criminally liable for not reflecting true oil prices.

This was sparked by Unioil Philippines Inc.’s rollback of gasoline prices by as much as P4.75 per liter and diesel prices by P3.50 per liter.

In the latest price adjustments on Monday, oil firms raised gasoline prices by P0.95 per liter, diesel by P0.60 per liter, and kerosene by P0.95 per liter.

This is the fifth consecutive week gasoline prices were raised totaling P2.95 per liter and the fourth successive week for diesel and kerosene, equivalent to P1.75 per liter and P2.70 per liter, respectively.

Prior to this, gasoline prices were raised for the whole month of July, August and two weeks in September.

Prices of diesel and kerosene were also increased for the whole month of July and three weeks in September.

Several groups have called on the government to look into these recent price movements. In particular, consumer rights advocate Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) urged the DOE, DOJ and the Philippine Competition Commission to issue show-cause letters against oil companies to explain if the price hikes were reasonable.

In an interview, DOE undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said the Oil Industry Management Bureau (OIMB) is gathering all data necessary to look into the recent spate of hikes which are driven by overseas developments, particularly Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-members seeking to extend production cuts.

“Internationally, there’s a movement toward increases, with the OPEC reducing production…But there’s nothing wrong into looking at it closely,” he said.

In particular, the DOE will investigate if there are market abuses being employed by oil companies, Fuentebella said.

The DOE has a price monitoring function on oil trading in the international market and its effects on the domestic prices of petroleum products as mandated by the Oil Deregulation Law of 1998, which also lets market forces dictate domestic oil prices.

Reference:

Rivera, D. (November 19, 2017). DOE forms team to probe oil price hikes. The Philippine Star. Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/business/2017/11/19/1760258/doe-forms-team-probe-oil-price-hikes 

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