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Freezing fuel prices not election politics: vice premier

Freezing fuel prices not election politics: vice premier

Taipei, Jan. 9 (CNA) State-run oil refiner CPC Corp. Taiwan froze fuel prices for the last three weeks of January to stabilize commodity prices ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday and not out of political considerations, Vice Premier Sean Chen said Monday. "The measure has nothing to do with elections," Chen said, responding to suspicions that the move was an attempt to gain favor with voters in the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for Jan. 14. Chen said the Executive Yuan held several open meetings a month ago to discuss economic development and stabilization strategies leading up to the Lunar New Year holiday, which lasts from Jan. 21 to Jan. 29 this year. The meetings, he said, concluded that it was very important to prevent commodity prices from surging ahead of the holiday, when consumer demand is usually high. CPC Corp. normally adjusts fuel prices on a weekly basis depending on movements in spot crude oil prices, but it announced Sunday that gasoline and diesel prices would not be adjusted from Jan. 9 to Jan. 29. The oil giant said that under the floating mechanism, prices at the pump would have risen this week by 2.71 percent, or NT$0.7 per liter. Instead they will remain at NT$30.6 (US$1.01), NT$31.3 and NT$32.8 per liter for 92 octane, 95 octane and 98 octane unleaded gasoline, respectively, through the holiday. The price for super diesel will be kept at NT$28.8 per liter, according to CPC. The company said losses caused by the freeze in prices would be offset by additional revenue the company expects to generate when international oil prices fall. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) jumped on the announcement to accuse the government of playing election politics. DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang, a caucus whip, warned the government Monday not to manipulate the issue and said he feared CPC would raise fuel prices after the elections and attribute the adjustment to the need to "reflect costs." "If that's so, it will increase people's financial burden. It is not fair to the people," he said, arguing that once fuel prices go up, prices of other daily commodities would also rise. CPC Vice President Paul Chen responded, however, that the company had two main reasons for the temporary freeze -- as a buffer to monitor tensions in the Strait of Hormuz and to keep prices stable ahead of the Lunar New Year. He said international oil prices could surge if Iran decided to block the strategically important waterway in protest of sanctions imposed against it by the U.S. and other oil buyers, who want to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. The executive also said the policy was in line with government efforts to stem inflation during a time of high demand, especially after the Consumer Price Index rose 2.03 percent in December, the highest in 22 months. Asked whether a "large-scale adjustment" of fuel prices would be made after the big holiday, Paul Chen did not answer directly but said the company would continue to monitor the situation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. (By Yang Shu-min, Lu Hsin-hui, Wen Kuei-hsiang, Huang Chiao-wen and Elizabeth Hsu)


Updated : 2021-07-26 14:02 GMT+08:00