POSTSCRIPT / July 11, 2013 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Admin turns deaf ear to oil price hike gripes

USELESS: Unless they earn good money for the chore, street marchers protesting the endless fuel price increases may want to stop doing it. It is obvious that all their ranting while exposed to sun/rain and air pollution is for naught.

Pity yourselves. It is useless. The government does not care or is not listening, much less acting on the protests of consumers, as shown by the relentless gouging of petrol-dependent motorists by the insatiable oil ogres.

The oiligarchs creep on their victims, lull them by lowering pump prices by 50 centavos/liter one time — then bounce back days later with a one-peso increase with the excuse that the world price of crude oil, based on news reports the day before, has gone up.

The time lag between the date the crude was bought and when delivered is ignored. It is mostly a pricing stratagem of making one token step backward followed by two big steps forward.

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GIVE FORMULA: The Department of Energy should publish the formula upon which retail prices are based taking into account everything, including the acquisition cost of crude (biggest cost component), foreign exchange rate, taxes, refining, distribution costs, and profit.

In the spirit of transparency, consumers — ideally with the government (if it still cares) — should be able to check if the pump prices are correct and fair. Every time there is a price movement, the media can be asked to publish the computation based on the formula.

Unless the administration has fallen into the pocket of the oil cartel, President Noynoy Aquino should order the DoE to reveal that pricing formula so price-watch consumer groups and everyone else with a calculator can check prices anytime.

Still, without a caring government on the side of consumers, we are talking here only of being able to watch the ebb and flow of petrol prices – without being able to do anything about profiteering.

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TRANSFER PRICING: Another key item that the government must check is Transfer Pricing, which an insider in a big oil company told us is one of the biggest rackets of oil firms belonging to a multinational network.

Put simply, one form of transfer pricing can happen this way: An oil company operating a refinery imports crude from its mother firm abroad at an overprice. The foreign parent makes a killing, keeps the profits, while the local firm AND CONSUMERS shoulder the high cost of the raw material.

The local company is able to shave profits and pay less tax. In the extreme, while it claims reduced revenues (losses), the hefty real profits are retained by its parent abroad.

Transfer pricing can also occur when financial guarantees, equipment rental, management and other jacked-up fees for services extended by the parent are charged to the local subsidiary. The arrangement depletes the latter’s profits and deprives the Philippine government of tax revenues.

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ANOTHER SCHEME: The stress of grappling with the traffic pandemonium on Epifanio delos Santos Ave. is beginning to tell on Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino. It seems he is so desperate that he is willing to try anything.

He suggests doubling the “number coding” ban on EDSA to keep out a vehicle two days a week (instead of the present one day) based on the ending digit of its license plate. He said his plan would reduce by 40 percent the traffic on the capital’s main artery.

Under his proposal, vehicles with license plates ending in 1,2,3 and 4 would be banned from EDSA the whole day on Mondays; 5,6,7,8 on Tuesdays; 9,0,1,2 on Wednesdays; 3,4,5,6 on Thursdays; and 7,8,9,0 on Fridays.

At present only two ending-digits are banned one day a week. A “window” is open for banned vehicles from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. except in Makati City where the scheme is enforced the whole day. There is no number-coding in the cities of Marikina and Taguig.

Tolentino said the expanded four-digit ban was a success in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Wow!

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MY INPUTS: As owner-driver of one of the 326,504 vehicles using EDSA daily, I am too weak to offer resistance to this latest MMDA spuriment-of-the-moment.

But before I am grounded and prevented from going to my daily media meetings, interviews and other coverage, in self-defense I want to throw in my own suggestions to add to the, huh, confusion:

• Now and then, President Noynoy Aquino, DoTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and MMDA’s Tolentino should try having “more fun” driving on EDSA, incognito, without a driver, without escorts – and during rush hours.

• No vehicle except the presidential car with the No. 1 plate, should bear a special or vanity plate (from No. 2… to 7, 8, 16 down the bragging line) except when the registered VIP owner wants to come out for stoning by irate motorists and pedestrians.

• Any bus with at least two tires straying outside the yellow Utility Vehicle lane will have all its tires shot flat by policemen and towed away to the dump at operator’s expense.

• The motorcycle lane should be set off by a five-foot-high wire fence with openings only at intersections. Any bike caught outside the fence will be crushed and sent to the nearest steel recycling plant.

• The uniforms of all traffic officers must have no pockets and slits. Every officer must be a licensed driver himself.

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CAMI ‘BALITAAN’: The regular Balitaan breakfast forum of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) will be held tomorrow from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at its Bale Balita (House of News) on Rufino Cardinal Santos Ave. at Clark Freeport. Guests can go straight to the long table, sit down and feel at home.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 11, 2013)

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