Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lower prices now!

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Federation of Filipino Industries Chair Jesus Arranza suggests that President Duterte meet with and ask businessme­n to reduce prices this Christmas season. He asked his colleagues to admit that dropping global oil prices and the strengthen­ing of the peso are enough reasons to bring down product costs.

Lawyer Vic Dimagiba, president of Laban ng Konsyumer Inc., says the situation calls for government to use its “iron hand” against greedy traders. He says that on “lower delivery costs” alone, these people are raking in consumers’ money.

Indeed, Dubai crude has dropped from $80-82 per barrel a month ago to $65-67/bbl along with Brent Crude, West Texas Intermedia­te and OPEC. These changes reflected the drop of MOPS-Singapore prices on our gasoline, diesel and kerosene.

From January to Nov. 17, gasoline prices moved 11 times and increased by P18.20 per liter. Today, our 17th rollback happened with another P1.30/L reduced on gasoline. This brings the total reduction to P16.90 for the same period, or a balance of only P1.30/L as net increase.

On diesel, the total increase amounted to P19/L while reduc- tions, including today’s rollback, is P14.60/bbl. This means we still have a net increase of P4.40/L.

Kerosene ballooned to P19.25/L but total reductions stand at P13.72/L, which means a big net increase of P5.53/L.

It was only with LPG that we are enjoying a “positive” number, from P12.50 per kilogram since January, rollbacks amounted to P12.67/kg or a net reduction of P0.17/kg.

These figures offer a compelling argument that traders and manufactur­ers are raking it in by maintainin­g their prices. The fuel price reductions have cut their transport costs, while the strengthen­ing of the peso against the dollar and reduced energy costs are giving them huge savings in production.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Agricultur­e (DA) appear helpless against them, yet both can punish manufactur­ers and retailers under the antiprofit­eering law by canceling their licenses. The so-called byaheros in particular are not covered and have remained untouchabl­e. Why? Because many are unlicensed or use only “peddlers permits” from “source” and “destinatio­n” local government­s, not from DTI or DA.

I’m inclined to believe that the Duterte administra­tion lacks political will when it comes to upholding consumers’ welfare. Now is the time for it to clamp down on rising prices and runaway inflation, with both consumer and business groups attesting to clear justificat­ions for strong action. Whatever is delaying such action, now one knows.

Three years is already an eternity for Filipino consumers to be continuous­ly victimized by “price manipulati­ons”. President Duterte must act now.


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