Archive for the ‘transport’ Category

A Day in the Life of a Jeepney Driver

September 27, 2008

Jeepney drivers work long days and endure a lot of difficulties in their struggle to eke out a daily living. At the end of the day, however, their earnings are far from enough to afford basic necessities.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

Sa maghapon
Ang buhay ay pamamasada
Tinitiis
Usok at init ng makina
At pag kulang pa ang kita
Kailangan pang umarangkada

Ganyan ang buhay-jeepney driver
Sa buong araw na kayod
Mga tuhod ay nanlalambot
‘Yan ang buhay-jeepney driver
Sa buong araw na pasada
“Jingle” lang ang pahinga
‘Yan ang buhay-jeepney driver
Pag may konti nang kita
Pwede nang pumarada

– Noel Cabangon, “Jeepney Driver”

These lines definitely apply to the case of Mang Vito Pulmon, who plies the route from Project 3 in Quezon City to Quirino Avenue in Manila and back.

A typical day for Mang Vito begins at around 6 a.m., when he does his first round trip along his route. He has to complete five such round trips everyday to be able to take home some money for his family.

This routine of his has not changed for the last few years, despite the recent rollbacks in prices of petroleum products.

Diesel prices last month came close to P55 ($1.23 at the August 2008 average exchange rate of $1:P44.88) as a result of a series of oil price hikes starting last January.

Oil firms have claimed that the frequent spikes in the prices of their products are offshoots of their supposed need to recover losses from the jumps in world oil prices. World crude prices increased at a seemingly uncontrollable pace with projections that it would hit $200 per barrel. But these peaked at $147 per barrel before going down steadily. Mainstream analysts claimed that diminishing oil reserves, weather disturbances, and geopolitical factors such as the impending war between the US and Iran caused prices to rise; although some attribute it to a speculation frenzy in the oil futures market, especially after the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US when hedge fund managers lost millions of dollars.

In the Philippines, oil companies have implemented a total of seven rollbacks since last August. These rollbacks have brought down prices by P8.50 a liter for gasoline and P6.50 for diesel.

World crude prices in the oil futures market first hit the $100/barrel mark in January this year, while its spot price was around $92.93. The local pump price of unleaded gasoline in January was at P44.45 per liter and diesel at P38.45. World crude prices in the futures market hit $103/barrel in February and $110/barrel in March, with spot prices reaching $93.51 in February and $99.32 in March. Local pump prices in February and March ranged from P43.96 to P46.46 for unleaded gasoline and from P36.94 to P39.44 for diesel.

Brent crude oil for October delivery last traded at $99.43 and light, sweet crude at New York Mercantile Exchange at $101.74. Spot prices range between $93.06, for oil from the Urals, to $104.04 for Louisiana sweet oil. Local pump prices now range from P51.25-52.85/liter for unleaded gasoline, and P48.95-51.09/liter for diesel.

The current range of pump prices for unleaded gasoline and diesel is visibly still above the monthly averages for the period January-March 2008, bolstering the claims of drivers and militant organizations that the current oil price rollbacks are not enough.

“Hindi nararamdaman ng drayber y’ong rollback. Dapat, mas malaki ang ibaba ng presyo ng langis. Ang mahal-mahal ng langis, sa gasolinahan lang napupunta y’ong kita namin” (Drivers cannot feel the supposed benefits from the rollbacks. Oil prices should be reduced more. Petroleum products are so expensive that our earnings mostly go to the gasoline stations), Mang Vito said.

Sweating it out

I accompanied him one day last week for a few round trips along his route and got first-hand insight into what Mang Vito and other jeepney drivers have to go through everyday to eke out a living.

A trip from Project 3 to Quirino Avenue takes between 2 ½ to three hours on days when traffic is moderate. When traffic is heavy, Mang Vito said, it could take up to four hours.

It was very humid when we went on that trip, like it was going to rain anytime. But it did not rain. The weather was like that throughout the day.

On days like that it is an ordeal to be stuck in considerably heavy traffic, like what happened to us several times on E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City, as well as on Espana Street in Manila which seem to be perennial traffic hotspots. As Mang Vito himself describes it, “masakit y’ong init” (the heat hurts).

The prolonged exposure to the sun’s heat comes on top of having to endure the high temperatures from the jeepney’s engine.

On rainy days, Mang Vito says, at least you don’t have to endure the excruciating heat. But a different problem arises. “Pag bumaha, hindi ka na makabiyahe” (When it floods, you can go on with your trip anymore), he says. And there are many flood-prone areas along his route.

There are many other things that a jeepney driver has to endure. Often he has to endure the grumbling of his stomach because he has to postpone his meals and his snacks until he completes a round trip along his route (it was over two hours past normal lunchtime, for instance, when we were able to have our lunch). With that also comes the fact that he often has to postpone relieving himself, sometimes by one hour or more: for some drivers, the alternative would be to stop somewhere along the route and relieve themselves on their vehicles’ wheels. Apart from that, drivers who ply Metro Manila routes have to deal daily with the dust and smoke that famously loom over the streets of the metropolis.

It would be late evening by the time Mang Vito completes his fourth round trip. By that time, he would have enough only to pay his boundary fee and make a return on what he spent throughout the day for diesel (he spends some P300 on diesel for every round trip). He has to make another round trip so he could earn a little money to take home to his wife and child.

Measly earnings

At the end of the arduous day – which, for Mang Vito, lasts up to 12 midnight or thereabouts – he gets to take home approximately P300 ($6.44 at the exchange rate of $1=P46.555). That is less than what minimum wage earners make in just eight hours of work. (Bulatlat.com)

Pagtaas ng presyo ng gasolina, inugat ng IBON, Piston

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — “Hindi tayo nauubusan ng pamamaraan para sa tumataas na presyo ng langis, ang may problema lamang ay ang hindi sensitibong pamahalaan.”

Ito ang ipinahayag ni Mandy Felicia, pangulo ng pool of speakers ng IBON Foundation sa Forum ng Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) noong Agosto 14, sa Sangkabalayan Hall ng Immaculate Conception Cathedral dito.

Idiniin ni Felicia na ang isyu tungkol sa langis ay hindi lamang isyu ng sektor ng transportasyon kundi isyu ng bawat Pilipino.

“Lahat ay gumagastos, lahat ay apektado,” aniya. Bago simulan ang pagsasabi ng iba’t ibang solusyon, inilahad muna ni Felicia ang dahilan kung bakit tumataas ang presyo ng langis.

Iba-ibang dahilan

Sinasabi ng gobyerno na mayroon tayong matinding pangangailangan at kakulangan sa langis kaya tumataas ang presyo nito.

Isang dahilan ay ang giyera na umiiral sa Gitnang-Silangan, ayon sa mga tagapagsalita ng gobyerno. Noong Disyembre nang nakaraang taon ang presyo ng langis mula sa krudo ng Dubai na ating inaangkat ay $100 bawat bariles.

Noong Enero ng taong ito ay naganap ang pinakamataas na pagtaas ng presyo ng langis sa kasaysayan na umaabot sa $217 bawat barrel.

Mas malalim na pagtingin

Subali’t sinabi ni Felicia na sa tingin ng mga siyentista, mayroon namang 1.3 milyong bariles na reserba ng langis para paandarin ang lahat ng sasakyan at makinarya sa buong daigdig sa susunod na 42 taon.

Isa pa, ayon sa datos mula sa International Energy Association(IEA), mas marami namang suplay kaysa sa pangangailangan. Kung minsan pumapantay ang suplay sa pangangailangan pero hindi pa nito nalalagpasan ang suplay kahit kailan, ayon kay Felicia.

Ang Saudi Arabia ang may pinakamalaking reserba ng langis na higit sa 56 %. Tinatayang 2 % naman ang bahagi ng Estados Unidos. Maaari aniya na kaya pinag-iinitan ng Estados Unidos ang Gitnang-Silangan dahil sa paghahangad na makuha ang reserba ng langis sa naturang lugar.

Hindi ang mga may-ari ng pinakamalalaking reserba ng langis ang kumikita sa produkto dahil pinakamaliit ang kanilang bahagi sa pagrerepina nito. Hawak ng transnational companies(TNCs) ang pamilihan.

Dahil TNCs ang may hawak ng merkado, sila rin ang nagtatakda ng presyo.

“Paano sila ngayon malulugi kung sa isang araw ay bilyon ang kanilang kinikita,” dagdag pa ni Felicia.

Balik-kasaysayan

Noong 1992, nilagdaan ni dating Pangulong Fidel V. Ramos ang Republic Act 7638 para maging pribado ang kumpanyang Petron. Dating pag-aari ito ng pamahalaan at mayroong basehan ang ibang mga kumpanya ng gasolina at langis upang hindi masyadong taasan ang presyo. Ngayon at pribado na ito, hindi na kontrolado ang pagtaas ng presyo.

Kapalit ng Republic Act (RA) 8180 o ang oil deregulation law na idineklara noong 1994 ay ang pangako ng International Monetary Fund (IMF) na pautang ng $600 para sa bansa. Subali’t naideklara naman itong hindi ayon sa Konstitusyon ayon sa Supreme Court. Pinalitan ito ng RA 8749 na halos wala rin namang ipinagkaiba sa nilalaman.

Labindalawang taon matapos ang unang oil deregulation law, dominado pa rin ng Big Three TNCs (Dambuhalang Tatlong Kumpanya) o ng Shell, Caltex at Petron ang lokal na industriya at pamilihan ng langis.

Ayon naman kay Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo na senador pa lamang noon, Free Market (Malayang kalakalan) ang ikabubuti ng oil deregulation law dahil kung mas maraming kumpetisyon, mas mumura ang presyo.

Subali’t kabaligtaran ang nangyari dahil mas madali na para sa mga TNC’s ang pagmamanipula sa pamilihan dahil nga wala kahit isang kumpanya ng langis ang kontrolado ng pamahalaan. Halos 400% ang kinkita ng mga ito sa patuloy na pagtaas ng presyo.

Nagayon sa 12 % na Value Added Tax (VAT) sa mga petrolyo, maging ang pamahalaan ay kumikita rito.

Ayon kay Felicia, ang ugat ng pagtaas ng presyo ng langis ay ang sabwatan ng dayuhang korporasyon ng langis (TNCs) at ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Mga pamamaraan

Marami namang maaaring solusyon sa mga problemang ito ayon pa kay Felicia. Ilan sa mga ito ay ang alisin ang RVAT; ibasura ang batas sa deregulasyon; kontrolin ang presyo; pagrolbak sa presyo ng langis; bawiin ang Petron; at pagsasabansa bilang pangmatagalang alternatibo.

Puwede rin naman, aniya, na mag-import tayo ng langis sa ibang bansa at palitan natin ng mga produktong pang-agrikultura. Sa gayon, kahit papaano, makakahinga ang bawat Pilipino sa pagdurusang dulot ng pagtaas ng presyo ng langis at iba pang produkto. # Maria Lalaine Gulan(NorthernDispatch)

Fernando told to go slow on ‘Agaw Manibela’

August 12, 2008

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:04:00 08/12/2008

MANILA, Philippines – It’s okay to come up with creative ways to ease traffic, but not at the expense of commuters, the Commission on Human Rights yesterday told the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

CHR Chair Leila de Lima advised MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando to go slow on the agency’s “Agaw Manibela” scheme, saying this would only compound traffic problems on Edsa and cause inconvenience to the public.

The new scheme allows MMDA traffic enforcers to take over the wheel of any passenger bus that stays too long at loading and unloading zones on the major thoroughfare. Their passengers are then asked to alight from the vehicle, and their fares are returned to them by the bus conductor.

Buses are allotted only 30 seconds for stopping and picking up passengers.

“We salute them for being creative but they should also take into consideration the rights of the vulnerable groups – the women, children, elderly and persons with disabilities – who depend on public transportation daily,” De Lima said during a press conference.

She added that giving passengers only 30 seconds to ride or alight from a bus was tantamount to depriving them of their right to safety, public and social services and the right against nondiscrimination.

The new scheme could also be a violation of the rights of bus owners and operators, she pointed out.

“The scheme is tantamount to a deprivation of property without due process that may not pass the test of lawfulness,” De Lima said.

=========================

My Take:

Gago talaga si Fernndo noh?

Car insurers stop GSIS move

July 25, 2008

Court issues 20-day restraining order

By Chino S. Leyco, Reporter

A regional trial court stopped state-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) from taking over the compulsory third-party liability (CTPL) insurance for motor vehicles in the country.

Judge Carlos Valenzuela of Mandaluyong City on Friday issued a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) prohibiting not only the government pension fund but also the Department of Transportation and Communications and other parties from implementing an order of the department that takes away the third-party insurance business from the private sector.

The Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association earlier challenged the order of the Transportation department before the Makati City Regional Trial Court.

Valenzuela said the restraining order was in response to a petition filed by an individual complainant, identified as Belinda Martezano, a resident of Mandaluyong and a licensed insurance agent who derives her livelihood from selling the insurance to car owners.

The GSIS had planned to start its integrated compulsory third-party liability insurance system at the Land Transportation Office on August 1.

The CTPL is an insurance policy that shoulders any possible damage resulting from a person’s use of his car.

In the previous year, the rein­surers association, the umbrella organization of all non-life insurance companies in the country, obtained a court injunction from the Makati City court. The injunction was lifted when the case was dismissed on technicality.

Honorio Ramajo, the chairman of the association, said the insurance industry agreed that the GSIS plan of taking over the third-party liability insurance of 5.5 million motor vehicles amounted to monopolizing a sector of the industry. The compulsory third-party liability insurance sector generates premiums of more than P3 billion annually.

Also named as respondents in the suit filed before the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court were technology firm Stradcom and the Insurance Commission, which had signed an agreement with the Transportation department and the government pension fund to implement the CTPL takeover.

Ramajo said the insurance industry is sticking to its stand that the CTPL takeover will be damaging not only to insurance companies and their employees but more so to motorists who will be deprived of their freedom of choice.

GSIS suprised

Estrella Elamparo, GSIS chief legal counsel, said they were surprised that the court had issued the TRO when the five days given the pension fund to comment on the case had not lapsed.

“This [issuance of the restraining order] is highly irregular. But we will study what will be our next step after this [issuance],” Elamparo added during a telephone interview.

The restraining order came a day after the Court of Appeals voided a cease-and-desist order issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) in a bid by the commission to stop Meralco’s election of board members during the annual stockholders’ meeting almost two months ago.

The cease-and-desist order was issued by the SEC at the behest of the GSIS and was served during the stockholders’ meeting on May 27.

The appellate court dismissed the commission’s order “due to forum shopping by respondent GSIS and due to splitting of action” by the government pension fund.(ManilaTimes)

Welga ng Bayan looms

July 21, 2008

By JASON B. NEOLA

MILITANT transport organizations in the Bicol region are poised to stage a well-organized inter-province exploratory talk leading to the holding of a nationwide ‘Welga ng Bayan’ once pump prices of fuel and other petroleum products hit P70 a liter.

Pio Samonte, president of the 700-strong Naga City Jeepney Transport Federation, disclosed that transport leaders in the region are taking a close watch on the unabated skyrocketing of fuel prices.

Petroleum products have jacked up its prices 18 times since January, this year, which is currently pegged at P55.82 for diesel; P57.85, kerosene and P60.56 for gasoline a liter, inclusive of EVAT.

Samonte said along with other big transport groups in Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte, the Albay-based Pinag-isang Samahang Transportasyong Organisasyon Nationwide (PISTON), Legazpi-based Concerned Operators and Drivers Regionwide (CONDOR) and the Sorsogon-based City Integrated Transport Organization led by Fernando Bobis are now engaging in active networking with small and big transport groups for an imminent Welga ng Bayan.

The Welga ng Bayan will press for the immediate abolition of oil deregulation law and the scrapping of 12-percent expanded value-added tax on pump prices of gasoline and other petroleum products.

As of press time, the transport sector in the city has not yet made any pronouncement on the specific date of the Welga ng Bayan.

P90-B EVAT

Value-added tax is a sales tax levied on the sale of goods and services and on the imports of goods into the country. It is an indirect tax passes on to the buyer, from which the government, according to reports by the IBON Foundation, was able to accumulate P80-billion to P90-billion pesos in the past few months

Shell petroleum dealer Dr. Domingo Yu lamented the connivance between the oil firms and the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that makes the life of the Filipino people even more miserable with the EVAT.

He also assailed Arroyo and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes for their weak leadership in resolving the matter.

Yu said last month he was billed more than P550,179.84 for petroleum products that costs only P491, 230.00 because of the exorbitant sales tax.

Malacanang, however, maintained that suspension of the 12-percent expanded value-added tax on oil products would mean reduced funding for the government’s pro-poor programs.

But transport leaders belonging to the Naga City Jeepney Transport Federation said scrapping the E-VAT on oil products would increase the people’s purchasing power and at the same time make the country’s economy more dynamic.

“While the Big Three oil firms in the Philippines claim losses due to under-recoveries, their mother companies abroad continue to report record billions in profits. Royal Dutch Shell, the mother company of Pilipinas Shell, posted net income of $27.6 billion in 2007, making it the second most profitable company in the world next to oil giant Exxon Mobil. During the same year, Pilipinas Shell recorded profits of P4.12 billion,” a statement from the Ibon Foundation said

It further said that Chevron, mother unit of Chevron Philippines (formerly Caltex), reported net income of $18.7 billion in 2007, 9% higher than in 2006 and enough to rank it the eighth most profitable company in the world. Its local unit in the country reported P2.75 billion in profits in 2007

Petron, which is co-owned by the Philippine government and Saudi Aramco, recorded profits of P5.94 billion in 2007. Its net income has been progressively increasing in the last three years, posting P5.76 billion in 2006 and P3.42 billion in 2005. Aramco, unlike Shell and Chevron, is an unlisted company that is not obliged to report its financial books, but its profits in 2007 are likely to have reached $15 billion.

Hesitant protesters

Although admitting that certain kinks have made the transport industry in Bicol less active in joining nationwide Welga ng Bayan, the mood would be different if pump prices of fuel hit P70 a liter, a source said.

Transport leaders were apprehensive that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) may resort to getting back on transport leaders who would be involved in the nationwide protest. “LTFRB can disapprove our application for a franchise or have our franchises cancelled,” the source who is a PUV operator said.

The same source cited several incidents in 2007 when some of the leaders, after they staged a transport strike, were warned by the LTFRB about corresponding consequences for their active participation in similar mass actions. He did not elaborate.

Deregulation failed

IBON Facts and Figures said oil prices have increased by an average of 50% over the past year, highlighting the failure of oil deregulation in bringing down petroleum prices.

It said between June 2007 and June 2008, average pump prices of unleaded gasoline and diesel have increased by 47% and 52%, respectively

Further, since the start of deregulation in 1996, pump prices of unleaded gas have increased by 492 percent. Meanwhile, prices of diesel have increased by 607 percent

Oil deregulation was supposed to ensure affordable and accessible petroleum products by breaking up the local oil cartel, allowing “market forces” to determine the real price of oil. Instead, it only gave Shell, Petron and Chevron (formerly Caltex), more room for speculation and dictate prices and price hikes.

IBON estimates that as much as 47% to 54% of the pump price of petroleum products represent windfall profits for the oil firms.

Yu said the effective way to break up the monopoly of oil firms over the local downstream oil sector and ensure affordable and accessible oil products is to revoke the oil deregulation law and give the government regulatory authority over the oil industry.

Government’s blunder

Transport leader Rafael Duque of 1,240-strong Pinag-isang Samahang Tsuper ng Traysikel at Operators sa Naga (PISTTON) shared his sentiments with Yu, saying government’s policies on oil are not in conformity with the current economic situation that severely affect the livelihood of PUV drivers and operators.

Jeepney operator Alberto Darilay deplored what he called destructive competition among jeepney operators and drivers over the diminishing number passengers due to fuel’s periodic price hike that spawn high prices of commodities, including fares.

Trying to resolve the problem, the Naga City-based transport groups have requested the city government to relax some traffic regulations so that they could maximize loading of passengers in areas where they are otherwise not allowed to pick up passengers.

Other initiatives that Naga transport groups are working on is the materialization of the P2 government subsidy or discount on fuel for PUVs, the implementation of the Volume Reduction Scheme or the reduction in the number of PUVs on the road and lessening the amount of boundary fee paid to PUV operators by as much as 30 to 40 percent.

Not fuel alone

PUV operators Val Magayanes and Evaristo Palomares bewailed how prices of jeepney spare parts went up consistently with the rising of fuel prices.

They said prices of motor spare parts increased by more than 50 percent. They said tie-rod end alone that usually sold at P250.00 now costs P650.00; Goodyear tire that costs P2,400 – now, P4,000; release bearing, usually sold at P420, now P680; and overhauling gasket worth P1,400, now costs P2,200.

Duque likewise assailed the government for its continued failure to check the soaring prices of motorcycle spare parts now hitting more than 50 percent compared to the prices three months ago.(BiclMail)

Public hearing for P2 tricycle fare hike set

July 4, 2008

By FELIPE V. CELINO

ROXAS City – The Sangguniang Panlungsod’s (SP) Committee on Public Utilities will hold a public hearing on the proposed P2 tricycle fare hike tomorrow, July 5, at the Dinggoy Roxas Civic Center.

Chaired by SP member Herbert Chu, the public hearing will start at 9 a.m.

The current minimum tricycle fare is P6.

The Alliance of Roxas City Tricycle Operators and Drivers’ Association (ARCTODA) cited the continuing increase in fuel prices and basic commodities in seeking a fare increase.

In September 22, 2005, the City Council fixed the minimum fare at P6 for regular commuters and P4 for students and senior citizens for the first two kilometers, with an additional P.50 for every succeeding kilometer.

ARCTODA President Joel Perion said premium gasoline was then at P33.45 per liter.
Today, prices of petroleum products are much higher. Period said there has been a 53.66 percent increase.

“This we ask so we may be able to continue providing food for our families and send our children to school,” Perion said.

There are about 3,500 tricycles with approved franchises in this city. The colorum or franchise-less ones number about 500, Perion said./PN

Pump prices go up again on weekend

June 21, 2008

By Euan Paulo C. Añonuevo, Reporter

Fuel prices are expected to rise again today, as oil firms said they have to recover losses incurred from the soaring prices of crude in the world market.

Oil prices in Asian trade went up on Friday after sliding earlier.

Oil firms in the Philippines are expected to hike prices by another P1.50 per liter after incurring P7.50 in under-recoveries. Earlier, they recovered P3 of the amount, which means that price hikes would continue until July.

Starting June 14, the prevailing domestic price of fuel has been averaging at P55.26 to P57.07 for unleaded gasoline; P52.10 to P55.30 for kerosene; and P48 to P49.97 for diesel.

The price of an 11-kilogram liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder has been hovering between P615 and P661.

The Department of Energy reported that as of June 20, the monthly average price of the regional benchmark Dubai crude increased by more than $6.50 per barrel compared to the May average.

Also, gasoline and diesel rose by about $8.40 per barrel and $6.50 per barrel to $139.58 per barrel and $168.07 per barrel, respectively, over the previous month levels.

The contract price for LPG rose by $57 per metric ton to $912.50 per metric ton this month.

Dubai crude, gasoline and diesel posted new record highs last week brought about by the sharp depreciation of the dollar against the euro, tensions between Israel and Iran, and the forecast of Morgan Stanley that falling US stockpiles could send crude to $150 a barrel by July 4.

$132 at Asian trade

In Friday’s trading in Singapore, the benchmark oil futures contract, New York’s light sweet crude for July delivery, rose 23 cents higher at $132.16 per barrel.

It had tumbled $4.75 earlier to close at $131.93 in US trade on Thursday following China’s announcement to hike oil prices.

Brent North Sea crude for August delivery rose 45 cents to $132.45 following a drop of $4.44 to settle at $132 in London on Thursday. Both the Brent and New York contracts had fallen in early Asian trade.

China became the latest Asian nation to curb energy subsidies by hiking retail petrol and diesel prices by as much as 18 percent, moving to close the gap between state-set domestic prices and the soaring world oil market.

Analysts said the move by the world’s second biggest oil consumer was important, but differed on its longer-term impact on soaring oil prices, which hit nearly $140 this month from a low under $11 in the 1990s.

“I think it’s very significant,” said Dave Ernsberger, Asia director of global energy information provider Platts. “It is going to eat into demand. I’m pretty sure of that.”

He had called China’s subsidies “the big gorilla in the room” ahead of its price hike announcement Thursday. Experts have said China’s booming economy has up to now been a key driver of the world’s growing appetite for oil.

But the fuel price hike “may temper growth in fuel demand in China, helping moderate demand-based pressure on oil prices,” David Moore, a commodity strategist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, said in a report.

Fuel subsidy cuts elsewhere in Asia are already said to be hurting regional energy demand. Malaysia has hiked fuel prices by 41 percent and Indonesia by around 29 percent, while Taiwan and India have also raised energy costs.

Looking ahead

The longer-term impact of China’s move on world oil prices would not be clear until later in the year, when numbers about demand are released for the market to digest, Ernsberger said.

“It’s possible we won’t see a big impact on the price until September, October,” he said.

Victor Shum, an analyst at Purvin and Gertz energy consultancy in Singapore, said the impact from decreased demand for oil in China was likely to be small, as higher prices would stimulate production.

“The negative impact in demand growth in China may be more than compensated by increased supply,” Shum said.

Global finance officials fear soaring crude costs pose a threat to world economic growth, as higher inflation leads central banks to raise interest rates.

Thursday’s oil price fall of nearly $5 also came as Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC), said it planned to increase output by 200,000 barrels per day.

Shum said the Saudi announcement would not have a major impact because the increase is “not that significant compared to the total oil demand of 86 million barrels a day.”

Concerns about lost Nigerian oil output might outweigh the Saudi increase due to the better grade of the African nation’s crude, Shum said.

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell said it had shut down a Nigerian offshore oilfield after an attack by militants. The field has a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day.

Hugo Chavez, president of OPEC member Venezuela, said prices should be around $100 per barrel, but “could soon reach $200” given political tension, threats against oil producer Iran and a weak US dollar.

Chavez threatened Thursday to shut off oil exports to European countries if they enforce tough new rules on illegal immigrants.

World leaders are also preparing for a high-level meeting between producers and consumer nations on Sunday in Jeddah to discuss soaring prices.
– With AFP(ManilaTimes)

Oil tariff at zero won’t stem prices

May 24, 2008

Teves says: No stopping increases

BY REGINA BENGCO

FINANCE Secretary Margarito Teves yesterday said the tariff on oil imports would be brought down to zero on June 1 following the rise of global oil price to $135 per barrel on Thursday.

Don’t expect any immediate lowering of prices, he said.

The zero tariff will not immediately result in lower pump prices because some companies still have recoveries, he said.

Eventually, he said, prices would have to increase.

Oil was trading at $132 per barrel yesterday.

“Kasi tumataas din ang presyo, wala tayong magagawa doon. Ang kapalit niyan, we’ll find a way of re-channelling whatever additional resources that the government has collected back to the sectors that were affected. Yun ang plano,” he said.

Oil companies are expected to raise prices again this weekend. Since the start of the year, the oil firms have raised prices nine times, bringing the price of gasoline to a record high of at least P51 a liter.

Oil firms have said they are eyeing a recovery amount of P7 a liter to stop losses due to skyrocketing world crude prices.

The energy department earlier this week said price triggers for the zero tariff were breached during the first two weeks of the month.

The current tariff is 1 percent. Last January, Malacañang effected a 1 percentage point reduction (to 2 percent from 3 percent) on the tariff on oil as an alternative to calls for suspending the 12 percent value-added tax on oil or scrapping the oil deregulation law.

The Palace has said suspending the VAT would result in a P60 billion revenue loss and lower credit ratings.

Teves said the current value of the peso (P43.42 to a dollar) is still within the P42-P45 peg for the 2008 national budget.

He said the deterioration of the peso to more than P43 to the dollar helps the exporters and the overseas Filipino workers but government will have to pay more interest for its debts.

He said the lower peso value also improves Customs collections because taxes are collected based on the peso equivalent of the imported item.

He said what government is watching out for is the effect of the peso on the gross domestic product because a lower GDP would affect the overall revenue collection.

He said deterioration would initially be inflationary and would result in higher tax collection.

“We will know in the next semester, because it may already have an effect on our economy. But we don’t know to what extent yet,” he said.

But he said government has to look at the assumptions associated with the economic projections because both the inflation and interest rates are now higher than the assumption.

The inflation rate was 8.3 percent as of April.(Malaya)

LTRFB approves wage hike for buses, jeepneys

May 18, 2008

MANILA — Jeepney and bus commuters in the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon and Calabarzon-Mimaropa) will have to pay a higher pay starting May 21, Wednesday after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) approved the “provisional” increase in minimum fare.

LTFRB chairman Thompson Lantion said his office has approved the P0.50 increase in minimum jeepney fares in Metro Manila and in the said regions effective at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

Lantion said with the increase, minimum fares in public utility jeepneys will be raised to P 8 from the present P7.50 for the first four kilometers (kms), while fares in ordinary buses will be adjusted to P9 from P8 for the first five kms.

Minimum fares in air-conditioned buses will likewise be increased to P11.50 from the present P10.

There will be no increase on the rates for every succeeding kilometer for both Metro Manila jeeps and buses, Lantion said in announcing the latest fare hike.

Provincial regular buses will increase their fare from P8.50 to P9 for the first five kms and P1.40 for every succeeding km. (SunStar)

Editorial Cartoon: Mr. Shooli, Poster Boy

May 17, 2008

Pagbabago nga.

Transport strikers are caught between two forces, says Cagayan de Oro Prelate

May 13, 2008

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, May 13, 2008—Cagayan de Oro archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, said that public utility drivers are caught between two forces: the rising cost of petroleum products and the equally soaring price of basic commodities, especially rice.

The local Solidarity of Transport Alliance of Region X (STAREX), a transport group in this city and cause-oriented groups including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and various sectoral groups led the transport strike to oppose the unabated increase in petroleum prices.

Among the demands was for the Senate to scrap the controversial oil deregulation law and the nationalization of local oil industry.

While clamoring for 25% wage increase, the strikers also called for the immediate ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In an interviewed with CBCPNews, Archbishop Ledesma said the drivers are simply exercising their right to protest and seek redress of grievances.

“Government officials should confront the issues on the increase in prices of petroleum products and prime commodities and with this I would like to sympathize with them,” the prelate said.

“Dili kaayo mi caught sa rice kai ang bugas masulbad ra samtang ang problema sa oil lisud kay kani nakatapat sa oil deregulation law,” (We are not that caught with the rice problem since it can be resolved, while the oil increase is a difficult crusade since it is associated with the oil deregulation law.) said Amando Naul, Secretary General of STAREX.

Public transportation in Cagayan de Oro City was paralyzed by 97% in the city-wide mass action that began at 4:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M. Monday.

Naul said his group expects to talk with Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma to discuss the issues affecting them and the community.

(CBCPNews)

Gov’t waives right to buy

May 12, 2008

THE Philippine National Oil Co. yesterday decided to waive its right of first refusal to the 40 percent stake in Petron which Saudi Aramco is selling to the London-based Ashmore Group for $550 million.

“We based our decision on a number of factors, including the fact that the purchase of these shares by the government runs contrary to our policy of privatizing government stakes in corporations and letting the private sector run commercial enterprises,” Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said after a meeting of the PNOC board.

PNOC, which holds a 40 stake in Petron after the latter’s privatization in 1994, also opted not to transfer the right to buy the Aramco block to a third party.

Reyes said last week that Morgan Stanley had approached PNOC with an offer to buy the stake.

Last week, JG Summit Petrochemical Corp., owned by the Gokongwei family, said it was offering about P24.5 billion ($575 million) for PNOC’s stake in Petron.

PNOC officials said no decision had yet been taken.

PNOC said the decision not to exercise its right followed a recommendation made by its financial advisors, Development Bank of the Philippines and ING.

“We were also aware that exercising the right of first offer and the subsequent tender offer could cost Philippine taxpayers some $825 million at a time when the government has many other priorities including the further development of our agriculture sector to support food security and investment in modern infrastructure to ensure the competitiveness of our economy,” he said.

Reynaldo David, DBP president, said Ashmore will be an acceptable partner as it has expressed intention to grow Petron’s business on all fronts, both strategic and financial.

David said Aramco has offered a supply agreement to Ashmore that guarantees a one-year oil supply for Petron.

Upon Aramco’s entry into Petron, it signed a 10-year supply contract covering 90 percent of the latter’s requirement.

The contract, which was scheduled to run until 2014, would be terminated upon the sale of Aramco’s stake to Ashmore.

David said DBP looked into the offer of Morgan Stanley as well as those of the Thai firm PTT Ltd. and the Gaisano family of Cebu.

Petron has assets amounting to P104.5 billion, with borrowings of P46.6 billion. It supplies 40 percent of country’s refined oil product requirement, with a refinery rated at a capacity of 180,000 barrel per day.

The Ashmore Group is listed on the London Stock Exchange. It has assets $36.5 billion.

Sen. Mar Roxas said PNOC should make public the deliberations which led to its decision.

Roxas, chairman of the Senate committee on trade and commerce, questioned why PNOC deliberated on the deal only on the last day of the two-month period within which to decide.

“The government knew that this sale was forthcoming yet there was no clear design on how to seize this as an opportunity to advance the national interest particularly at this time of sky-high oil prices,” he said.

Roxas raised the issue before the announcement to waive was made.

Roxas said the sale of the 40 percent stake of Aramco in Petron “is not just a simple commercial transaction” as it involves the public interest at a time when the price of crude oil is going off the roof.

“This pertains to a strategically crucial product, oil, and to a company that owns 40 percent market share in the domestic trade of oil products,” he said.

“They may have very good reasons not to exercise this option, but to date we don’t know what these are. And if these ‘good reasons’ don’t exist, we ought to instead exercise this right so we can place this key asset in friendly hands,” he said.

(Malaya)

Transport strike paralyzes key Mindanao cities

May 12, 2008

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/12 May) — Between 80 and 95 percent of public vehicles in major cities in Mindanao ground to a halt today after various groups in the island joined a nationwide transport strike to protest the continuing increases in the prices of petroleum products and rice.

The strike paralyzed public transport in the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Kidapawan.

In Davao City, organizers claimed 95 percent of public vehicles joined the strike.

Traffic Management Center chief Celso Gempesaw said that as of 3:30 p.m. 85 percent of taxis and public utility jeepneys had stopped plying their routes.

City hall employees were allowed to go home early to prevent them from being stranded, City Administrator Wendel Avisado said.

He added only a few people were transacting business at the city hall and that Mayor Rodrigo Duterte decided to cut short the workday to save on power costs.

Classes in Ateneo de Davao were suspended as many faculty members and students were unable to report. Only those who have private cars came to the school.

Court hearings were also postponed.

“We have anticipated such support from the people of Davao City and we are positive that the strike will be successful especially with the support that has been coming from the drivers themselves,” Jeppie Ramada, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Southern Mindanao, said.

In Cagayan de Oro, public transport was 85 to 90-percent paralyzed, although private vehicles were still running.

In Iligan, only pedicabs (non-motorized tricycles), the tartanilya (calesa or horse-drawn carts), motorbikes and a few private cars could be seen on the streets. Drivers and civil society groups held a march-rally in the morning.

Meanwhile in Kidapawan City, capital of North Cotabato, the strike paralyzed at least 80 percent of public transport. There are some 2,000 tricycles and 500 public multi-cab, vans and jeeps in the city.

The strike in Kidapawan started 6:30 a.m. and ended 3 p.m. today. A downpour did not prevent the drivers and operators from marching in the streets to drumbeat their issues.

Members of the Federation of the Kidapawan Integrated Tricycle Association (KITA), the biggest group of drivers and operators here, comprised the bulk of the strikers, Bayan provincial spokesperson Bebiano Gabo said.

Gabo, citing studies from a research organization, said that if the transport sector all over the country would not buy any petroleum products even for just an hour, the oil companies would lose about P700 million.

“This is why this protest action has sent a strong signal to big oil companies in the country,” he stressed.

KITA joined the protest action despite the approval last week of an increase in tricycle fare.

KITA president Victorino Carbonell said the fare increase was insignificant because the prices of oil products have increased by almost two pesos since.

“What frustrated us so much is the fact that the fare increases happen only every three to four years, but oil price increases happen almost every week,” he lamented.

Gasoline prices last year increased 18 times and that of liquefied petroleum gas 13 times.  “This year, oil companies have set to add 1 peso per week starting May to July,” Bayan Mindanao said in a statement.

“The increases have cut into the drivers’ daily income.  According to Transmission Southern Mindanao, drivers lose more than 200 pesos a day from their income due to the increase.  Tricycle drivers in General Santos lose nearly half of their income as they have to shell out 300 pesos for gasoline per day, in which they end up taking home 80 to 100 pesos for their income,” the statement added.

Bayan said the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law would be an immediate remedy to the oil price hike. It also called for the scrapping of the 12-percent Reformed Value Added Tax as this would reduce five pesos from the prices of petroleum. (With reports from MindaNews in Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, Kidapawan City and Iligan City)



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