By Arjay L. Balinbin

THE Department of Energy (DoE) said it could file charges against oil companies that did not roll back fuel retail prices as much as they could have.

“If we believe that either the rollback or the increase — rollback for liquid petroleum products and the increase in LPG — is unreasonable then we will refer it to the DoE-DoJ (Department of Justice) Task Force to study the possibility of filing either administrative or criminal cases against these companies,” Energy Assistant Secretary Leonido J. Pulido III said at an economic briefing in Malacañang.

He added: “As far as price is concerned, the government cannot dictate what the prices are. However, the Oil Deregulation Law points out that a task force called the DoE-DoJ Task Force has the authority to investigate anti-competitive practices.”

Oil companies on Monday announced a price rollback of P1.45 per liter for gasoline, P0.60 for diesel, and P1.00 for kerosene. Ahead of their advisories, Phoenix Petroleum Philippines cut the prices of its gasoline and diesel products on Sunday by P1.55 and P0.50 per liter, respectively.

When compared with the DoE’s estimate for the retreat in prices, “mas mababa po ‘yung rollback nila by about 22 cents for gasoline and about .06 cents for diesel (their rollback is lower by about 22 cents for gasoline and about .06 cents for diesel).” And we want them to explain it. Hindi naman po namin sinasabi na mali sila (We’re not saying they’re wrong) but we want to give them the opportunity to explain to us.” Mr. Pulido said.

Eastern Petroleum chairman and chief executive Fernando L. Martinez and Shell Philippines were asked to comment but had not replied at deadline time.

Oil companies that sell liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) also announced on Monday an increase in cooking gas prices by P4.50 per kilogram, and auto LPG by P2.50 per liter to reflect the international contract price of LPG.

“For LPG, when we computed kung magkano po dapat ‘yung iaakyat ng presyo ng LPG this week or this month, mas mataas po ‘yung ini-inform nila, mas mataas po ‘yung iaakyat ng produkto na LPG kumpara sa dapat iakyat niya compared po sa world market at sa sinusundan po natin na tinatawag natin na Mean of Platts of Singapore. (When we computed the LPG price increase, the price hikes announced by the companies was higher than expected based on the Mean of Platts Singapore benchmark) So we’re asking also LPG importers and suppliers in the Philippines to explain within three days bakit po mas mataas iyong presyo po ng LPG na pag-akyat po nila (why their price hikes were that high),” Mr. Pulido said.

This week’s price adjustment comes after oil firms last week implemented a hefty increase in the price of gasoline, diesel and kerosene on supply fears brought about by the drone attack on major Saudi Arabian facilities. — Victor V. Saulon