Thu, Nov 01, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Oil prices slated to rise at midnight

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Oil prices are almost certain to increase at midnight tonight amid opposition from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).

The Cabinet decided on Monday to increase fuel prices in accordance with its "floating oil price system."

Hsieh, however, expressed a different opinion on Tuesday, citing an old saying that the government must "care for the people like patients."

The state-run CPC Corporation, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油) began to implement a "floating oil price system" on Jan. 3 to better reflect the company's costs. The pricing system is based on fluctuations in the price of West Texas Intermediate crude traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Amid criticism that the party was dictating government policy, DPP Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said yesterday that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who doubles as the party's chairman, did not tell the Executive Yuan whether they should raise fuel prices during yesterday's Central Standing Committee meeting.

Instead, he told the Cabinet to "appropriately respond to" and "carefully handle" the matter and said the party would respect and support the Cabinet's final decision.

DPP Legislator Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓), director of the party's Culture and Information Department, said that the DPP is not a party that meddles in government affairs and that her party totally respects the Cabinet's decision.

Hsieh quoted Chen as saying that it is the responsibility of the government to stabilize commodity prices and that the administration does not allow the jacking up of prices or deliberate manipulation of commodity prices.

"Chairman Chen emphasized that some commodity prices go up but some of them don't, including utilities, natural gas and propane," she said. "The government must aggressively advertise this."

Hsieh Hsin-ni told reporters after the Central Standing Committee meeting that the government is duty-bound to intervene in the event of possible price hikes to protect the public interest.

He said it was the correct decision for the government to hold back possible price increases of fuel, natural gas and propane following last month's typhoons and price increases of international oil.

Although the government must "take action" if price hikes are expected to affect public morale, long-term intervention is wrong, Hsieh said.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus demanded the government temporarily freeze gas prices on the domestic market as the legislature has passed a resolution to that effect.

KMT legislative caucus whip Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) said the government should immediately announce a freeze in gasoline product prices as the state-run petroleum product provider is expected to rack up NT$20 billion (US$616 million) in profits for the year.

Additional reporting by CNA

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