Congress should stop sitting on oil reform measures

P16.7B VAT windfall on oil should be used to buy back Petron – Bayan Muna
House Speaker Prospero Nograles’ proposal to tap the P16.7 billion VAT windfall on skyrocketing oil prices to provide relief for consumers has found support from Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino , who proposed that the money be used to get back government control of former state-owned Petron Corp.
“Speaker Nograles’ proposal is well intentioned but would only result in a one-shot-deal subsidy for consumers. That money will be better used to fund a buy back of Petron, thereby giving the government enough market leverage to lower domestic oil prices and check the monopolistic and abusive practices of foreign oil firms,” said Casiño.
A subsidiary of London-based investment firm, Ashmore, recently made a $550 million offer for Aramco’s stake in Petron Corp. The Saudi-government owned company bought its Petron stake for about $530 million in 1994.
“The fact that Aramco’s stake is up for sale gives us a golden opportunity to correct the mistake of selling Petron. In fact, only a part of the P16.7 billion is needed to get back a majority control of Petron. All government needs is to re-acquire another 11% of Petron’s shares on top of the PNOC’s 40% stake to gain the majority in the oil firm,” said Casiño.
“A level-headed government should easily see that oil price hikes can be effectively be put in check if the state itself has market leverage. This is one of the long term solutions to our problems. Petron should be run as a public utility and a pro-Filipino company,” he stressed.
Casino’s proposal is embodied in House Bill 3031 or An Act Renationalizing Petron Corporation which has been pending with the House Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization headed by Camarines Sur Rep. Felix Alfelor Jr. since November 13, 2007.
Saying that the House leadership has largely been silent on oil companies having raised pump prices 12 times since March this year, the militant party list bloc is also pushing for a bill to exempt the sale or importation of petroleum products and raw materials used in the manufacture of the same from the regressive VAT. HB 3442 is pending with the Committee on Ways And Means since May 2, 2008.
House sitting on vital oil legislation?
“We also wonder why the Energy committee is sitting on two major legislative proposals that aim to provide the people – including exporters, power distributors, housewives and transport drivers and operators – relief from rising oil prices,” said Casiño.
The two measures are: House Bill 3029 An Act Regulating the Downstream Petroleum Industry and for Other Related Purposes and House Bill 3030 An Act Instituting Centralized Procurement of Petroleum in the Country.
“All these measures are being ignored by the bigwigs of the House. The people expect Congress to be relevant to the times and act on legislation that aim to bring immediate relief from the weekly oil price hikes based on speculation in the world market,” Casiño stressed. #

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