Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary Leonido Pulido III is set to shed light on the higher prices of fuel in Bohol compared to adjacent provinces.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), upon the motion of SP Member Tomas Abapo Jr., called for an investigation on the disparity of fuel prices in Bohol and those in nearby Negros Oriental and Cebu provinces.
The SP Ad Hoc Committee created for the purpose originally set the hearing for September 8, but had to move it to September 15 since Pulido could not make it due to conflict of schedule.
The Ad Hoc Committee is composed of Acting Vice-Governor Venzencio Arcamo as chairman and Abapo, SP Member Abel Damalerio and SP Member Elipidio Jala as members.
The SP decided in June to initiate another probe on the higher prices of fuel in Bohol after Abapo delivered a privilege speech where he raised the issue on the disparity of the prices of gasoline and diesel in Tagbilaran City and neighboring Dumaguete City by PHP4 per liter.
Upon Abapo’s motion, the SP created an Ad Hoc committee to investigate the matter in aid of legislation.
Abapo then moved for another investigation on the noticeable difference of pump prices of petroleum products in Bohol, particularly Tagbilaran City, and other provinces.
In his privilege speech, Abapo cited the concern of Jose Cagas, a resident of Barangay Booy in Tagbilaran City, saying that diesel prices in Dumaguete City were cheaper by PHP4. It raised a concern, considering that Tagbilaran and Dumaguete are just near each other.
Abapo noted that the SP already investigated the matter last year but remained unresolved and has to be looked into again.
It has been observed the disparity of fuel prices in Bohol and those in other provinces has narrowed from PHP8-PHP12 per liter in 2014 to an average of PHP3 at present.
However, the provincial leaders noted the price difference despite the entry of some independent players.
Governor Edgar Chatto even threatened then to elevate the matter to Malacañang and might file cases against those found to be manipulating the prices of fuel.
Chatto later consulted higher national officials, the DOE, and the Energy Regulatory Commission to address the prevailing concern since his assumption as governor.
The governor relayed the matter to First District Rep. Rene Relampagos so the latter could elevate the matter to Congress and Senate.
The DOE then sent a team to Bohol to inspect all the fuel stations in the city and the towns to verify the reports in response to the clamor of Boholanos for reduction of the disparity of prices and the other provinces.
The series of conferences and actions by provincial leaders regarding the mounting complaints on the huge disparity of the fuel prices compared to other areas in the country prompted the DOE to expand their monitoring coverage to the towns instead of only within Tagbilaran City.
The DOE has been studying the issue and is set to issue a comparison on prices of oil in the past three years covering all islands, provinces, certain cities and the entire Bohol.
The distance of Bohol from the refinery in Luzon is one of the factors cited for the higher prices of fuel.
On this, the new investigation to be launched by the SP Ad Hoc committee will delve into the still noticeable lower prices in Dumaguete City which is just of comparable geographical distance with Bohol from Luzon.
Another factor to be considered is the presence of more independent players in other provinces than in Bohol.
The DOE confirmed earlier that it has received several reports about the high prices of petroleum products in Bohol.
The matter had also been raised by Chatto before the Regional Development Council as early as during his first term as governor.
In 2014 when the issue made the headlines, the Big Three — Petron, Shell and Caltex — dropped the prices but the problem recurred later.
The previous Sangguniang Panlungsod of Tagbilaran City had also conducted its own investigation on the matter, yet remains an issue until today. (AV/PNA)