MANILA, September 13, 2004 (STAR) By Donnabelle L. Gatdula - The Department of Energy (DOE) said over the weekend that consumers will likely start to feel some relief from soaring oil prices in the coming weeks.

"We have started to see some easing of world oil prices for this month, providing some relief to oil importing countries. If this trend sustains, we expect our pump prices to be steady in the coming days," Energy Secretary Vincent S. Perez said.

Based on DOE monitoring, world oil prices have started to ease this month. DOE said Dubai crude fell for the 12th time in the last 14 trading days, after it hit an all-time high of $41.26 per barrel last Aug. 20.

In fact, the average price of Dubai crude between Sept. 1-9 has dropped by $3.32 to $35.22 per barrel from $38.54 due to reports of oversupply. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) pumped additional supply in August in a bid to stem high oil prices.

DOE monitoring also showed that MOPS-based unleaded gasoline has been significantly cut by $3.5 to an average of $47.99 per barrel from $51.49 in August. MOPS-based diesel, on other hand, was still in a roller-coaster ride in the last 14 trading days, averaging $51.86 per barrel from $51.66 last month.

Oil prices have been rising in the last few months due to several factors such as high world oil demand versus tight supply, terrorist attacks, political tensions involving oil exporting countries and military unrest in the Middle East.

To cushion the impact of high oil prices, Perez asked oil companies to implement frequent but smaller price adjustments.

The energy chief has also tried moral suasion, asking officials of the oil companies to further cut by half their proposed increases. Oil companies heeded the call, jacking up their increase to only 30 centavos per liter from the original 60 centavos per liter across-the-board adjustments.

Petron Corp., the countryís largest oil refiner, announced Friday that it would likely keep its prices at current levels until the end of this month if world crude prices continue its downward trend.

The companyís pronouncement came amid reports that some oil companies still need to recover crude and finished product costs for the month of August.

"If you take yesterday into account, the price of the bellwether Dubai crude has fallen for the 12th time in the last 14 trading days. We hope that this trend can be sustained until the end of the month so we donít have to reflect the additional cost we incurred in August," Petron public affairs manager Virginia Ruivivar said.

Recently, OPEC president Purnomo Yusgiantoro estimated that the global oil market had a crude oversupply of 1.5 million barrels per day and said that oil prices should be closer to the $30/barrel range.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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