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Filipinos told to bear high prices of fuel, commodities.

Manila The Philippine government yesterday admitted its inability to address the rising cost of fuel and commodities, as left-wing groups rail against the excuses given by the presidential palace.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in an interview aired by the government-run dzRB station, flatly said that the government is helpless in arresting the increasing prices of petroleum products.

The Philippines sources much of its fuel requirements abroad and prices of basic commodities are closely linked to movements in the cost of petroleum products.

"On the rise in the cost of petroleum products, we have to accept it is a deregulated market and we are subject to market forces," Valte said.

High power rates

Over the past two years, Filipinos had been bearing the high cost of fuel which impacts on the overall cost of commodities. Cooking gas and food prices climbed to high levels while the country's consumers and industries continue to bear paying what is considered to be the highest electricity rates in the world.

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Nationalist Alliance) called on the government of President Benigno Aquino III to "stop acting oblivious to skyrocketing oil prices" and to take the necessary steps in protecting consumers.

Speculation

"The Aquino government is telling us that there's nothing we can do because local oil prices are being dictated by global price movements. Our point is that the global prices themselves are manipulated and driven by speculation. It is the duty of the government to protect the Filipino consumer. Saying that we have to accept deregulation as our only option is just plain wrong and insensitive," said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

Bayan said that alternatives to deregulation can include regulation of the industry, centralised procurement of oil from the cheapest sources abroad, and ultimately the nationalisation of the oil industry.

"Oil is such a strategic commodity that if placed in the hands of profit-seeking monopolies, it holds the entire country hostage.

"It is for this reason that we are supporting HB 4355 filed by Bayan Muna which aims to reverse the disastrous effects of the oil deregulation law," Reyes said.

"In the meantime, the government can grant immediate relief to consumers by removing the value added tax on petroleum products," he added.

According to the Department of Energy, petroleum products could increase further this week as tensions grow over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The United Nations slapped Tehran with four sets of sanctions, in addition to sanctions imposed by the US and European Union, designed to halt its nuclear programme.

The international community fears Iran's current nuclear development is intended to create atomic weapons, which the latter had vehemently denied.

Oil is such a strategic commodity that if placed in the hands of profit-seeking monopolies, it holds the entire country hostage."

Renato M. Reyes, Jr

Bayan secretary general

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Mar 5, 2012
Words:488
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