Lawmakers urged to immediately suspend Oil Deregulation Law

MANILA, Philippines- Saying President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is a lame duck president and a willing hostage of oil companies, the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) Thursday asked  senators and congressmen to cross party lines and pass an immediately legislative measure that would immediately and indefinitely suspend the implementation of Oil Deregulation Law, the overpricing and other forms of price manipulation of oil products.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap challenged Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to rally their colleagues in both houses to approve an appropriate legislative action that would immediately curb the all time high greed of oil companies, particularly the Big Three or oil cartel controlling more than 80 percent of the country’s oil supply and distribution.

“Mr. Aquino is not doing anything to stop the oil cartel from exploiting the crisis. Therefore, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House are politically, legally and constitutionally obliged to do their current assignment and urgent task and that is to stop the oil cartel from exploiting the people. In fact the situation immediately merits the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said the unbridled spikes in the prices of oil products will require very fisherfolk some P 520 per fishing trip to be able to fish and such hike in the prices of petroleum products almost eats up 90 percent of the total production cost per fishing.

“A fisherfolk uses at least 10 liters of regular gasoline or diesel per fishing trip and because of the situation he will be forced to stop fishing unless the government drastically reduces the prices of petroleum products by at least one third or one-half of the current price,” Hicap noted.

Pamalakaya said the if the average price per liter of petroleum products reaches the P 55 per liter this month, the fisherfolk will be compelled to reduced fishing hours from an average of 8-12  hours per fishing trip to four to eight hours or abandon fishing for the meantime due to high prices of oil products.

The militant group also invited commercial fishing operators all-over the country to coalesce with small fisherfolk organizations against the unstoppable weekly oil price hikes.

“We can have a joint plan of action to oppose the oil price spikes, call for the removal of the 12-percent expanded value added tax on oil and demand the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law. We are all affected by the unstoppable increases in the prices of petroleum products. Our only option is to fight back against the  oil cartel and their sitting puppet in Malacañang,” said Pamalakaya.

“President Aquino is just watching at the sideline as the Big Three plays their all-time favorite game—the game of the monopoly,” the group said.

Pamalakaya further lambasted President Aquino. “Instead of scoring a giant kill against the oil deregulation law that gives license to oil cartel to manipulate and hike prices of petroleum products at any given time, President Aquino perpetually essays the role of lifetime partner in crime of big oil companies. It is time to score our own giant kill against these predators in the oil industry and we should do it with the Filipino commercial fishing operators,” noted Pamalakaya.

The group recalled that at the height of successive hikes in petroleum products in 2008, commercial fishing operators complained that 65 percent of their production cost went to fuel consumption.

Pamalakaya said commercial fishing vessels were forced to stop operations in 2008 due to oil price hikes. The group said in 2008, commercial fishing operators laid off 50,000 commercial fish workers in 14 tuna canneries in Western Mindanao due to hikes in petroleum products. Others resulted in downsized their operations due to increases in petroleum products and the 12 percent EVAT levied on oil products.

The weekly and unbearable increases in the prices of petroleum products have pushed small fishermen operating small motorized boats to reduce fishing hours from the normal 8 to 12 hours to 4 to 8 hours because of high prices of gasoline and other oil products. A significant number of fishermen cut fishing activities per week from the normal 6 days a week to three to four days a week due to perpetual increases in the prices of petroleum products.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya reiterated its demand for a P 32-billion oil subsidy to small fisherfolk to enable them to fish and keep the wheel of production in the fisheries sector moving, because the sector is affected by high prices of oil products and skyrocketing prices of fishing gears and equipments.

Under the annual P 32-billion production subsidy for the fisheries sector proposed by Pamalakaya, all fishermen who own a small motorized banca will receive a minimum P 4,500 monthly oil subsidy, while those who operate non-motorized banca will receive P 2,000 monthly production subsidy.

Pamalakaya said the P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture.

The group said the proposed measure if approved will benefit 313,985 small fishing boat operators and will cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

Pamalakaya’s proposal for production subsidy for 630,000 non-motorized fishing boats operators across the country will cost the national government some of P1.3 billion per month or roughly P 15.67 billion per year. All in all, the total subsidy for small fishermen will cost the government some P 32 billion in total production subsidies annually.

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