Monday, November 12, 2007

The Oil Debacle

Recently we have experienced another round of debilitating oil price hikes. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, over the weekend gasoline prices have gone up by 50 centavos a liter, while prices of liquefied petroleum products now have an additional 56-centavo increase. Various transport groups like PISTON (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) -- the largest group of jeepney operators and drivers in the Philippines -- are now planning to stage a series of transport strikes to air their demands for a one-peso increase in jeepney fares.

Meanwhile, Filipinos are once again faced with the debacle of making ends meet with the rising costs of basic goods and services -- a typical after-effect of oil price hikes. What a way to greet the Christmas season.

The people so comfortably seated in Malacañang are now trying to appease poor Juan dela Cruz by saying that the situation with the oil price hikes could have been worse had not it been for the "strong economy" we are experiencing right now.

What an irony: our local foreign exchange says that the Philippine peso is now at 42 against the dollar, but I have yet to see Filipinos dancing in the streets because of its effects. C'mon, Malacañang hotshots: stop pulling our leg! The only time I'm going to believe in a Philippine economic recovery is when there are no more reports of children like Marianet Amper committing suicide over hunger and extreme poverty.

Going back to the issue at hand, local oil firms are only reacting to the continuing rise in the prices of oil, or the so-called "black gold" in the world market. As of late, world oil prices have already soared at an all-time high of $100 a barrel. The Philippines is a major oil importer since it cannot generate its own oil resources. Thus, it becomes prone to any price fluctuation in the world market.

In the meantime, members of the OPEC as well as non-OPEC but oil-producing nations garner a windfall over the plight of numerous oil-importing countries -- the Philippines included. Such is the vicious cycle of dependence between these oil-rich countries and the Land of Pinoys.

In fairness to the Malacañang people, one of them managed to share a nugget of wisdom in the light of recent events. Palace Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye stated last Friday that -- well, maybe I should quote him verbatim: "...Now is the time to pool our collective patriotic efforts to intensify the search and development of alternative energy sources, as well as provide the appropriate legal environment to accelerate such initiatives." Nice quote. Whether there's a follow-up to that or not is another story.

Once and for all, we must face the fact that this dependence on a non-renewable resource like fossil fuel -- oil being one of its by-products -- is causing all of us Earthlings more harm than good. On the global scale, oil is now becoming a politically and economically viable bargaining chip in the race for supremacy. He who owns the oil has the oil-driven machines and weapons at his disposal. And oil eventually becomes a tool in the quest of some quarters for world domination.

On local shores, some government solons still insist that oil is the lifeline that keeps the Philippines alive. In fact, inspite of several environmentalists' warnings that it could destroy marine life and habitat, the government through the Department of Energy (DoE) proceeded with its project to drill for oil off the coast of Aloguinsan and Pinamungahan (Cebu).

It shocks me that DoE Secretary Angelo Reyes himself is supportive of such a move. Once again, it has boiled down to a question of economics versus the environment. And we know what this government chose. Apparently, Reyes and Bunye are not seeing eye to eye with regard to this issue.

And so Filipinos are back to another round of belt-tightening, especially this holiday season. Plans of having roast pig (lechon) for Noche Buena may well end up with roast chicken (lechon manok). Others may not have anything for Noche Buena or Media Noche at all.

Oh well, come to think of it: we won't be the only ones in this world to suffer this Yuletide. Take solace in this fact -- if there is any.

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