DoE promises to seek other ways to make fuel prices more transparent

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THE Department of Energy (DoE) will continue to find ways to keep consumers informed about what goes into the prices of petroleum products, its top official said Tuesday, after a court blocked the agency’s circular that it hoped would provide greater transparency.

“I’m not happy,” DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi told reporters after the release of the writ of preliminary injunction issued by Branch 213 of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong City that sided with petitioner Petron Corp.

He said the other ways for the DoE to determine the pricing of fuel products would include the importation of petroleum by a unit of state-led Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) or the company itself.

Last year, PNOC Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC), the company’s energy exploration arm, embarked on a plan to import diesel from non-traditional foreign markets. The move has so far failed to materialize.

“Whether it’s PNOC [mother company] or PNOC-EC, it doesn’t matter,” he said, calling the initiative a “work in process” that was never dropped by the agency. Mr. Cusi chairs PNOC by virtue of his position as Energy secretary.

The court decision enjoined Mr. Cusi, who was respondent in the case in his capacity as DoE secretary, from implementing and enforcing Department Circular No. DC2019-005-008.

It said “if the implementation of the assailed circular is not restrained in the meantime, the petitioner might not be able to comply with its requirements, the first of which is the submission of the weekly reports.”

“At the same time, the petitioner might be placed at risk of losing its trade secrets and incur irreparable injury by disclosing such information to respondent DoE. The petitioner and its officers may be subjected to criminal prosecution and the administrative penalties mentioned in the circular for compliance with the same,” it said.

The circular requires persons or entities involved in the sale of petroleum products such as gasoline, automotive and industrial diesel, kerosene, jet fuel and aviation gas, household and automotive liquefied petroleum gas to file an annual or special report, or both, in such form as the DoE secretary may prescribe.

The circular, which has yet to be implemented, calls for oil companies to first notify the DoE of any adjustment in the prices of petroleum products before imposing any price adjustments.

The court said it found “clear and unmistakable right” to provisional relief sought by the petitioner to prevent the DoE from implementing the circular. — Victor V. Saulon