(File photo)

The Puerto Princesa City Council was unsatisfied with the results of its probe on local gas station businesses regarding skyrocketing fuel prices in the city and opted to escalate the issue into a congressional inquiry.

This was despite the fact that local distributors claimed that they had no control over price increases or decreases for their products. The average price of regular gasoline is currently P67 per liter, while diesel is P52 per liter, according to data presented by the Council.

Back in 2019, the Council and Provincial Board also sought for a probe on the same issue, with Palawan 3rd District Rep. Gil Acosta, Jr. vowing to work with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on addressing the high shipping costs of fuel.

Representatives of local gasoline distributors said they have little control over their pricing, which is set by the fuel corporations and affected by market factors, during a question hour held Monday, August 9.

The cost of transporting gasoline to the city, logistical expenses, international shipment problems, the condition of the international oil market, and pricing rivalry among distributors are among the market factors, according to the officials.

“In any area, ang pricing namin ay affected ng movement ng international prices, kasama na rin ang biofuels. Kasama na dito ang logistics costs, at pati na rin ang level of competition sa isang area. Hindi ito ma-quantify pero malaki ang impact nito sa prices. Sa isang market-driven business, ganoon talaga, hindi lang sa Palawan, kahit sa ibang mga merkado,” said Mia delos Reyes, a representative from the Petron Corporation.

Puerto Princesa’s fuel prices, which are significantly higher than those in other MIMAROPA provinces, were cited by council members as the biggest problems that transport sector workers face. They added that even amidst the pandemic, public utility drivers shoulder the burden of the high fuel prices.

Through a resolution approved during their session, the City Council urged the House of Representatives to further probe into the cause of high fuel prices in the city. Another resolution also requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Energy (DOE) also join the probe.

“Talagang kung gugustuhin ng mga malalaking fuel company, dahil sila naman ang nagdidikta ng mga presyo sa kanilang mga distributor, ay kaya naman nilang babaan ang presyo ng petroleum products sa Puerto Princesa. Although mayroon naman tayong oil deregulation law, mayroong kapangyarihan ang DOE na mag-imbestiga kung ang mga presyo ng petroleum products ay unreasonable,” said city councilor Peter “Jimbo” Maristela, also the main proponent of the resolution.

City Councilor Elgin Damasco also urged through an approved resolution for a study to be done by the City Planning and City Legal offices to conduct a feasibility study on the city to set up a government-owned gas station, which will reportedly offer fuel products at lower prices.

The resolution also called for a study on building an oil depot for local distributors to draw their supplies from.