The Real Culprit
Public clamor for greater transparency in the pricing of fuel and public perception by consumers who believe that they are being “gouged” by the so called Big 3 has shifted to “white stations” – gasoline stations that are not bound to purchase their gasoline requirements from established oil companies has been tagged as the alleged culprits in the high gasoline prices in Bohol.
Engineer Leo Lim, Chief Executive Officer of Bohol JL Distribution System, Inc, and a branded marketeer of Chevron (Caltex) products in Bohol accused operators of these “white stations” as the architect and culprit of the high pump prices of gasoline and diesel in Bohol.
Chafing under their daily battle against high gasoline and diesel prices in Bohol, irate consumers called for heads to roll and pressured provincial, municipal and city officials to appeal to the sense of social responsibility of operators of these “white stations”.
His reputation battered by unfounded and malicious accusations of manipulation of gasoline prices, Lim broke his silence over DYRD “Inyong Alagad”, turning the tables on his colleagues saying “I cannot manipulate the prices since we are bound by a contract with our main office in Manila as to the price of their products”.
MINIMIZE YOUR GREED
Lim hurled the challenge to his former business associates to lower their pump prices since “you are getting cheap gasoline and diesel from Cebu therefore you can sell it cheaper here in Bohol”.
According to Lim, operators of “white stations” are taking advantage of the high prices of diesel and gasoline in Bohol by selling their cheap fuel sourced from Cebu at par with the prevailing price in Bohol.
“If only they can lower their prices, I can assure the Boholanos that we will follow suit in less than 48 hours”, Lim said.
These unprecedented disclosures by Lim did not escape the scrutiny of an ongoing probe by the Sangguniang Panglalawigan (SP) that ordered the appearance of the reported 26 “white stations” scattered in Bohol.
3rd District Board Member Godofreda O. Tirol who presided over the SP sitting as a committee of the whole expressed deep concern on the latest revelations of industry players saying “this situation, if true hits hardest the ordinary consumer more than the rich since they cannot avail of discounts given by these white stations”.
2nd District Board Member Jovanna Jumamoy immediately grasped the significance of turning their focus towards the “white stations” since the major oil dealers in Bohol are tied with long term contracts to source their supply from their mother companies while these “white stations” can move freely in determining at what price level they sell their fuel products.
The Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) is set to conduct its own investigation after a resolution authored by Councilor Alexander H. Lim was approved urging the SP to conduct and inquiry, in aid of legislation “on the continuing disparity also unusually high prices of fuel products imposed by the three mayor oil companies operating in the City of Tagbilaran”.
The Office of the City Treasurer listed twenty gasoline stations operating in the city with six tagged by Lim as “white stations”.
Efforts by the Chronicle to get the side of owners of these “white stations” proved futile after employees of these gasoline stations claimed their boss cannot be reached.
Operators of “white stations” source their fuel requirements from Cebu which is cheaper by P7/liter for unleaded gasoline and P5/liter less for diesel fuel compared to the more expensive price of unleaded and diesel from the depot station in Graham Ave., Tagbilaran City.
But instead of selling the cheaper fuels at a lower price in Bohol, operators of “white stations” retail their products at par with the higher prices offered by the major oil companies namely Caltex, Shell and Petron, according to Lim.
Lim pointed out that gasoline stations of the 3 major oil companies in Bohol cannot initiate a price rollback on their own since their prices are pegged by the main office in Manila.
However, if the “white stations” which has cheaper sources will bring down their pump prices, they have no choice but to follow to avoid a market shut out of their products, Lim said.
Big businesses in Bohol has cut their supply agreements with the major oil companies after realizing that cheaper sources can be bought in Cebu.
Lim told “Inyong Alagad” that despite the increase of the number of gasoline stations to 119, Tagbilaran depot records shows that volume per liter plunged from 7 million liters/month to five million liters/month in 2014.
Lost volume of 2 million liters/month was traced to the high depot prices as compared to cheap diesel and unleaded available in Cebu.
Bohol has gained the dubious distinction of having the highest gasoline and diesel prices in the whole of Visayas.
Data provided by the SP Research Team showed that as of July 18, 2014, pump price of unleaded gasoline of Petron and Shell in Tagbilaran City was P57.35/liter while Caltex was selling at P57.45/liter.
For the same period, pump prices for diesel from the so called “big 3” were uniformly sold at P46.30/liter.
The price disparity of pump prices compared to Cebu was P4.90/liter for diesel and P5/liter for unleaded gasoline, according to the SP research.
But in Ubay, diesel is selling at P43.65, a difference of P2.65/liter, while unleaded gasoline retails at P56.85/liter or P.50 less compared to Tagbilaran prices.
Juan Manuel Lim, Vice President for Operations of Bohol JL Distribution Systems, Inc. told the SP that the unique situation in Ubay which was declared by the industry players as a “price war zone” was dictated by market forces.
Lim said that a new player, SeaOil brought down the price of diesel and unleaded gasoline when they opened in Ubay to attract customers.
Existing stations were forced to rollback their pump prices to retain their customers while the big 3 – Caltex, Shell and Petron gave their stations price support so as not to lose their market.
If the Ubay situation will prevail in Tagbilaran City, then in 48 hours we will also rollback our prices at the level of the lowest pump price, Lim said adding that “we can never start this since our buying price is already high”.
SELLING ON THE SLY
Servando Abaya, Jr., Branded Marketeer Distribution Consultant also told the SP that “white stations should be transparent with their operations by posting in their price boards the actual price they are selling to their customers”.
According to Abaya, white stations are giving special discount prices “under the canopy” which means that customers who have big fuel consumptions are given special prices that are not reflected in their price boards.
Ordinary consumers will fall prey to the high prices posted in their price boards since they could not avail of the huge discounts because of their minimal consumption.
Abaya also told the SP that these “white stations” will be hard pressed to present supply agreements from their suppliers which is a requirement of the Department of Energy.
But in the towns of Sagbayan and Valencia, the Chronicle was told that unleaded gasoline are sold by the liter in soda bottles locally known as “takal takal” by sari sari stores at P3/liter cheaper than the gas stations.
Reports reaching the Chronicle that 20 liters containers sold at P800/container are being delivered to vans at the Dao Terminal Station by gasoline stations from Sagbayan.
Even cheap diesel are delivered to big fishing fleets debunking claims that fish prices in Bohol are expensive due to high diesel prices.
The Chronicle learned that six tankers were loaded on board Lite Shipping RoRo in Tubigon on Thursday from Cebu with two of the tankers bound for Albur.
Meanwhile, with the latest revelations, the legal tack being studied by the Provincial Legal Office and the planned Congressional Inquiry on the gasoline prices in Bohol will have to take a backseat awaiting the result of separate investigations conducted by the provincial and city SP. (CMV)
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