Who will protect us from oil companies?
After drone attacks on the world’s most important oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia, the price of Brent crude shot up by 20 percent and may reach $80 per barrel today, its biggest jump in 28 years. With the world’s supply cut by five percent, experts see prices climbing to as high as $100 per barrel.
This will also lead to a crazy weekly spike in gasoline, diesel and kerosene prices that will generally raise inflation rates and slow down our economic growth. We will again be at the mercy of oil companies that, until today, have yet to explain their industry pricing scheme.
Lawyer Vic Dimagiba, Laban Konsyumer president, is asking government regulators about the “identical amounts of adjustments, price adjustments at the same time of the week, all of which apply across the country.” Are these retail pricing practices even allowed by the oil deregulation law? Dimagiba has written the Philippine Competition Commission and the Department of Justice-Office for Competition but has yet to receive a reply.
He has also called on the joint task force of the energy and justice departments to conduct an investigation although his plea seems to have fallen on deaf ears. With world oil prices rising and our government agencies seemingly inutile, who will protect us consumers?
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The recent decision of the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division upholding the graft conviction of former Quezon City officials in relation to the deadly 2001 Manor Hotel fire is a brutal eye-opener. It is still common practice today that city hall inspectors—whether building, electrical, fire, sanitary or occupancy—are not doing their work and readily overlook violations in exchange for grease money. Some even act as fixers or vendors of fire extinguishers.
In a 42-page resolution, the court affirmed its March ruling handing out prison terms to former city engineer Alfredo Macapugay and electrical division chief Romeo Montallana, along with Manor Hotel incorporators William and Rebecca Genato, Marion Fernandez, Dionisio Agengino and hotel manager Candelara Arañador.
“Herein accused’s acts not only show gross negligence amounting to bad faith, but, when taken together, also show that there was conspiracy in their willful noncompliance with their duties which led to giving undue advantage, preference and benefit to Manor Hotel by allowing it to operate, notwithstanding its violations, also [resulting] in damage and prejudice in the form of death and injury to guests of the hotel,” it said.
In 2015, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division also convicted Macapugay of graft raps over the Ozone Disco Club inferno that killed 162 people in March 1996.
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Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat is very happy nowadays due to the latest World Travel and Tourism Council report showing that travel and tourism is now our largest sector, with a 24.7-percent share of the nation’s gross domestic product.
An economic growth driver, tourism has created jobs, posting 26.4 percent, just behind agriculture with 31.1 percent.
I am not at all surprised because foreign tourists have been flocking to our malls, parks and entertainment spots. From January to July, we welcomed 4,852,107 foreigners, a 12.3-percent increase from last year’s arrival record. Topping the list are South Koreans (1.1 million), Chinese (1 million), Americans (663,000), Japanese (382,000) and Taiwanese (192,000). We are on target to surpass last year’s 7.1 million arrivals.
Let’s take care of them and benefit from the country’s earnings from tourism.
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