MANILA, NOVEMBER 17, 2008 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile has called on the Senate to investigate the oil industry to protect consumers as the prices of oil and other energy products in the Philippines have not kept pace with the drop in prices in the world market.

“It is my opinion that the proper management of the price of oil is the one key to our economic well-being,” he said. “If this problem is left unresolved, it may mean more belt-tightening – something that our people may no longer be able to bear.”

Enrile said last July, when oil prices were at its peak, oil companies purchased crude oil at P6,244 per barrel which, based on foreign exchange rate of P44.60 to $1, was equal to $140.

“The Mean of Platts Singapore (MOPS), which serves as the basis of prices of imported refined petroleum product, indicates that Singapore’s diesel and regular fuel oil prices have dropped by 56 percent and 63 percent, respectively,” he said.

“However, our domestic prices dropped by a mere P18 (or by 31 percent) for diesel and by P12 (or by 26 percent) for regular fuel oil, respectively.”

Enrile said that the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) had dropped significantly from $804 per metric ton last month to between $314 and $490 per metric ton.

“What prevents the big oil companies from implementing significant cuts in their prices of their fuel and petroleum products and achieve price levels that are more reasonably in accordance with the drop in the global fuel price reductions?” he said.

Enrile deplored the decrease of prices of these products in the Philippines was nowhere near that of Singapore’s figures.

“Over the past few months, millions of ordinary Filipinos – farmers, housewives, businessmen, students and even the government bureaucracy – have been on the receiving end of the effects of the cost of operations, production and primary commodities,” he said.

“The cost of power especially is highly dependent on fuel costs. No sector of society, industry and the national economy has been spared.”

Enrile said household consumers were increasingly alarmed at the galloping increase of prices for LPG and electricity costs.

“Our commuters are changing transport habits due to fare hikes. Our industries are looking at lower profit margins as a result of rising costs of raw materials. Sadly, any increase in prices will – as all of us know – be eventually passed on to the consumers,” he said.

Enrile said from its peak in July, Dubai crude had gone down by 61 percent or at $55 per barrel by the end of October.

“Vital to this concern is the systematic search for a policy that would identify and correct an obvious defect in the current oil and energy distribution system,” he said.

“As members of the Senate, we are duty-bound to legislate a solution based on sound policy. Because we are a democracy and because we need to work as a nation, there is a need to consult and involve as many sectors in our quest for a solution.

“The sectors most affected by these unexplained discrepancies and the public in general deserve no less than transparency from the oil companies and our government agencies, policy makers and implementers. More than that, they need to see solutions and it is our duty as their representatives to help clarify these issues and work together to provide the solutions.”

Toyota Phils forecasts zero growth in 2009 By Elisa P. Osorio Updated November 17, 2008 12:00 AM

Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP), the largest automotive seller in the country, expects a zero growth rate in car sales next year as a result of the expected drop in global demand for cars.

“We will have flat growth for next year,” TMP vice president for corporate affairs group Rommel T. Gutierrez told The STAR in an interview.

This is the first time Toyota will not post an increase in local sales.

However, Gutierrez stressed that the local car industry is better off than other markets.

Mother company Toyota Motors Corp. (TMC) decided to cut its global sales forecast owing to the slowdown in demand from the US and European market.

The Japanese group, which includes Daihatsu Motor and Hino cars, now expects to sell 9.7 million cars and trucks in 2009, 700,000 fewer than its previous forecast.

For the local market, Gutierrez said Toyota will still reach its goal of 10- percent growth for this year. This figure is double the industry target of only five-percent growth for the year.

To attain this, Gutierrez said they would have to sell close to 50,000 units this year. The industry target is 124,000 units.

Gutierrez admitted that this year would be more challenging than the last but strong branding and the introduction of new product lines will help them achieve their goal.

“We are the only car company in the country which has attained pre-financial crisis results in terms of sales,” he noted

Meanwhile, Gutierrez said the crisis has not dampened their plan to strengthen Toyota’s local complete knocked down operations.

“We are going to focus on CKDs,” he said. “This would be the focus of Toyota ’s initiative next year,” he added.

The car manufacturer will start selling its high end brand Lexus in the Philippines in 2009.

“We want to enter luxury car market by providing our affluent customers with great products and exceptional service,” Gutierrez said.

Late last year, Toyota held the groundbreaking for the new showroom in The Fort. The three-floor showroom will be ready by the end of 2008.

Once operational, Gutierrez said the showroom will house 11 models of Lexus.

“We expect to sell 300 units during our maiden year,” Gutierrez said.

All the Lexus that will be sold in the Philippines will be imported from Japan . The Lexus is expected to compete head to head with European brand BMW.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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