Taguig court issues 20-day TRO versus DOE rule on disclosure of price hike computation

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A Taguig City court has stopped for 20 days the implementation of a Department of Energy (DOE) circular requiring transparency from oil companies regarding the increase of the prices of petroleum products—allowing the businesses to keep consumers in the dark about their profits.

In a recent 2-page order, Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 70 Judge Felix Reyes said he “finds that there is cause for issuance of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)” against the DOE’s Department Circular Number DC2019-05-0008.

The court cited the need “to maintain the status quo and to preserve the rights of the parties” before conducting hearings on whether it should issue a writ of preliminary injunction (WPI).

The WPI would stop the circular’s implementation beyond the initial 20-day period and until the merits of the case are resolved.

The petition for declaratory relief against the DOE circular was filed by Philippine Institute of Petroleum Inc. (PIP), composed of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, Chevron Philippines Inc., Isla LPG Corporation, Petron Corporation, PTT Philippines Corporation, and Total Philippines Corporation.

The circular required oil companies to submit a detailed computation and explanation for every price adjustment of petroleum products.

Oil companies agreed to three of the four components: international content (including import and freight costs and foreign exchange rates), taxes and duties, and biofuel cost.

The fourth component—the “oil company take” element—had been the most contentious. Companies would have to disclose their profit margins, as well as port charges, and costs of refining, storage, handling, marketing and transshipment.

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