Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Consumers warned vs. LPG shorting amid rising prices

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy and the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers’ Association on Tuesday warned against a likely increase in cylinder underfilling, amid fears that rising prices might fire up the illicit practice of dishonest resellers of the cooking fuel.

"We are deeply worried that with the rise in LPG retail prices, unscrupulous traders might deceptively underfill their cylinders to keep their posted prices down and try to mislead consumers," said LPG/MA party list Rep. Arnel Ty.

Ty vowed to combine forces with the authorities and defend consumers from these unscrupulous traders.

"We’ve agreed to help the DoE take strong counter-measures against the prohibited practice. Consumers should get what they deserve," he said.

Ty made the statement a day after Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. announced an increase of P3 per kilogram in LPG prices, or P33 per 11-kg cylinder.

He said that in a recent meeting with DoE officials, led by Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr., many LPG suppliers and distributors agreed to conduct joint actions with the department to ferret out shady dealers who defraud consumers.

"LPG/MA in particular will be providing assistance to the enforcement activities of the DOE and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)," he said.

Ty pointed out that cylinder underfillers not only cheat consumers, but also pose unfair competition to law-abiding dealers who conduct their business truthfully and fairly.

As such, he appealed to local government executives, especially barangay officials, to be watchful against crooked LPG dealers in their areas.

Ty said LPG dealers at the barangay level should be required to provide weighing scales in their shops.

"The scales will enable consumers to verify for themselves the heaviness of an empty cylinder and the load of a filled one, and help discourage shorting," he said.

Meanwhile, Quezon City Rep. Winston "Winnie" Castelo has joined other lawmakers who moved for the repeal of the oil deregulation law amidst a series of oil price hikes perpetrated by the three big companies.

"A mere review of oil prices cannot lower its cost. It’s time to repeal the oil deregulation law to enable the government to regulate once again oil prices," he said.

Apparently, Castelo said, Republic Act 8479 "failed to yield the desired results of a truly competitive market that would result in fair prices and adequate supply of oil and petroleum products."

"As of now, we are at the mercy of the three big oil cartels in pegging prices of crude oil," he said.

"With the strong positions in the oil industry of the top three players -- Shell, Petron and Chevron -- and in fact, their possible collusion to dictate prices, the intent of the RA 8479 of a free market competition is systematically defeated. We have produced oligopolies instead," he said.

"The Filipino people in general are the principal stakeholders whenever oil prices keep on changing and, therefore, government should step in to effect the necessary safeguards against cartel, monopoly and unfair market competition," he added. (Lilybeth Ison)

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