Drilon: ‘New admin should be the one to review or change oil deregulation law’

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Thursday that the new administration must be in charge of reviewing or changing the oil deregulation law- a policy which reduces the government's control on oil pricing and trade.

Although he is open to reviewing the legislation, he does not believe that it will receive careful and thorough evaluation since many lawmakers are busy with campaigning for the elections.

He made these statements shortly after President Rodrigo Duterte called on the Congress to review the oil deregulation law to give the state the authority to intervene in the event of oil price spikes.

The Department of Energy (DOE) earlier asked for amendments to the law, including the unbundling of prices and the inclusion of minimum inventory requirements.

On Thursday, however, Sen. Drilon said that making changes to the oil deregulation law just a few months before elections will lead to a major policy shift which will "tie the hands" of the next administration.

"I don't think that has been done before where a major policy shift happens right before a sitting president steps down. We should wait for a new administration to review, amend or repeal the country's oil deregulation law in order to find solutions on how we can mitigate the impact of the rising oil prices brought about by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine," he said in a statement posted on the Senate website.

Drilon clarified that he is open to reviewing the country's oil deregulation policy, but admitted that it might be difficult to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the law since "most legislators are preoccupied with the elections."

"A special session may be called. However, I do not think we can expect a thorough review and discussion given that it is election season. The debates may instead be influenced by politics," Drilon said.

For the lawmaker, the current administration must instead fast-track the roll-out of the P2.5 billion worth subsidies and fuel vouchers for qualified members of the transportation sector.

Separately, his fellow senator Win Gatchalian— who chairs his chamber's energy committee- said he is also open to reviewing the deregulation law to enhance transparency among industry players.

Calls to amend the existing law came as domestic oil firms have been announcing oil price hikes since the start of the year.

This week, local pump prices rose for the ninth consecutive time driven by tight global supply. Gasoline rose by P0.9 per liter, diesel increased by P0.8 per liter and kerosene went up by P0.75 per liter.

Gatchalian pointed out that the country is experiencing high oil prices because of its dependence on imported oil.

"We import almost 100% of our oil requirements. As long as we import oil, we will be susceptible to global oil shocks that we have absolutely no control of," he said.

"As a way forward, we need to explore new domestic oil and gas reserves, transition to renewable energy as well as electric vehicles in the medium to long-term," he added.

Energy Chief Alfonso Cusi earlier said that while the country is not experiencing any supply shortfalls right now, oil prices are projected to rise if the geopolitical war between Ukraine and Russia continues on.

READ:Energy chief says local oil prices 'to suffer' if Ukraine-Russia war persists

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