Major player Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation has upped the ante in this week’s pricing competition at domestic oil pumps as it implemented a heftier rollback of P1.55 per liter on diesel products, beating the P1.50 per liter price cut first enforced by competitor-players Unioil and Cleanfuel.
Shell’s pricing lead for diesel was immediately followed by PetroGazz; and this is seen as the likely trend that will prevail for most of the oil firms that have yet to announce their cost reductions.
For gasoline products, the price rollback was at a uniform P1.00 per liter; while for kerosene fuel, its cost was trimmed by P1.45 per liter.
As of this writing, the oil companies that already implemented price rollbacks include Unioil (as early as Sunday or September 13); then followed by Cleanfuel on Monday (September 14). Other players like Pilipinas Shell, PetroGazz, Seaoil and Total will have their price rollbacks on Tuesday (September 15); while the rest of the industry players are expected to follow.
The price reductions this week are considerably major from the time that demand in the oil sector started its gradual recovery since July. It was during the lockdown periods in March and April when prices hit rock bottom, but these went up again in May and June.
And while the oil firms are just on their routine weekly price adjustments and have been constantly citing global cost swings as main determinant of price fluctuations, the politicians are raising new round of scrutiny on how petroleum products are being priced in the country.
Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian primarily raised “the need for transparency in the downstream oil industry,” following a ruling from the Supreme Court which effectively prohibits “to open and examine the books of accounts of Petron Corporation, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation and Chevron for alleged monopoly or collusion.”
The high court verdict was directed upon a Manila regional court – that it cannot direct the Bureau of Customs (BoC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Commission on Audit (COA), to scrutinize the financial books of the specified major oil companies.
Gatchalian said he targets to file a bill “that will give teeth to existing laws in the downstream oil industry and we are studying ways to strengthen the anti-trust safeguards in Republic Act 8479 (or the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act) and how it can interact with the Philippine Competition Act.”
He lamented that “many consumers have been complaining that whenever world crude prices increase, these major players instantly hike prices despite the fact that they had purchased their inventories at a much lower price long before the scheduled increase.”
The lawmaker said his keen interest is “to look into the uniform price adjustments of the ‘Big 3’ oil companies,” which is in reference to Petron, Shell and Chevron.
Gatchalian said he is averse to “the lack of transparency in the pricing mechanism that is why the doors are wide open to speculations of possible collusion among the ‘Big 3’ to manipulate pump prices.”