Defiant oil firms face sabotage raps – Palace

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — STANDING pat on an earlier directive to keep prices of petroleum products to their Oct. 15 levels while the state of calamity is in effect in Luzon, Malacanang said oil companies could be slapped with economic sabotage charges.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the government is unfazed by claims of a shortage in the supply of petroleum products as a result of the price freeze ordered by President Macapagal-Arroyo.

Oil companies had warned of a supply shortage in view of the price freeze as provided under EO 839 which the President Issued last Oct. 23 as many parts in Luzon still struggles to cope with the devastation by typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”

“Because that is not going to do good for everyone. Mahirap naman, huwag naman nilang i-force ang gobyerno na mag-respond in a strong way,” Remonde said.

“We don’t believe that (shortage) because alam natin oil companies have long term supply contracts. Di naman man to man ang kanilang order. So huwag na tayong maglokohan nga… na suddenly mawalan sila ng supply then that would be economic sabotage,” he said.

Remonde stressed that the price control was a consequence of the calamities and “not out of caprice” and is only temporary.

He thus appealed anew to the social responsibility of the business sector, reiterating that the EO was not meant to pressure them.

Takeover

In the interest of the public the government may take over oil companies that would not abide by Executive Order 839 ordering them to roll back petroleum and gas prices, Sen. Edgardo Angara said yesterday.

”P’wede yun, in case of necessity, the government can take over these oil companies,” he said when asked whether Malacañang can take over “erring” oil firms.

Asked further whether he believed that the oil companies were resorting to “blackmail” when they warned of an oil shortage if they rolled back prices, Angara said: “Ayaw ko naman tawagin na blackmail but it amounts to that.”

”Iyung public interest overrides the right to profit. In case of calamity like what we’re undergoing, the government can take over the operations of the oil companies,” he said over dzBB.

In fact, Angara will propose to his fellow senators to put more pressure on oil companies to roll back prices when Congress resumes session middle of November. “The other pressure is when we resume nga, we will authorize the government to take over (these oil firms). Congress can authorize the executive to do that.”