Sunday, March 18, 2012
FIL-AMS REEL FROM RISING GAS PRICES
With a gallon of regular gasoline climbing past $4 here, Filipino Americans across the nation are finding various ways to cope with the pain at the pump.
“Sobrang taas na (It’s too high already)” rued John Peter Nunez of Nottingham, Md. The price of regular gasoline in some areas of Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC broke through the $4 level (the last time it hit $4 a gallon was in July 2008).
But if Fil-Ams in the region think they have it bad, fuel prices in California – which has more strident pollution standards – was averaging $4.35 during the past week. The average in Hawaii, which has a large Fil-Am population as well, was more than $4.48 a gallon.
Analysts warned that gas supplies on the East Coast could get tighter following the closure of refineries in Philadelphia. Fuel prices in the Metro DC region could soar 50 cents higher than the national average, they said.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also reportedly implementing new rules that call for cleaner fuel, new blends of gasoline and low sulfur heating oil that could exert an upward pressure on fuel prices.
The Energy Department has boosted its pump price predictions for the peak driving season (April to September) to $3.92 for regular gasoline. It could hit an average of $5 by June, the same report indicated.
Cynthia Harris, spokesperson for the Automotive Association of America (AAA) explained that “During summertime, there’s a summer blend of gasoline that’s always more expensive to purchase than the winter blend…regardless of what’s happening in the world.”
Arsenio “Tito Al” Alpapara, one of the largest supplier and distributor of Philippine-brand goods in the East Coast, said they have not raised prices – yet. “The higher gas prices will start a chain reaction and if it doesn’t stop, like all businesses, we will have no choice,” he said.
But for Nunez, he has already hit that wall. “Sirang-sira na ang budget ko. Hindi ko na mahabol (My budget is in shambles. I can’t catch up),” he said, adding that he’s had to pass on the added cost of driving his F-150 to clients. He is in the construction business and the truck is essential to his job, Nunez explained.
“Minsan pinapatong ko na lang sa projects pero mahirap; imbes ng makakuja ng mas maraming projects, hindi na (Sometimes I pass the cost on to the projects but it’s difficult because I get fewer projects),” he said.
Jun Panlaqui runs two road bands from Virginia, the City Groove and Pulse Band. “Dati gasolina ko $40, ngayon $60 – that’s big money so naapektuhan ako (I used to spend $40 on gasoline, now it’s $60 so I’m affected),” he complained.
Some of their gigs take them 50 miles away from Metro DC, a round-trip of 100 miles that cuts into their income.
“Hindi mo naman mataasan ang budget nila kasi yung ibang organizations hindi naman nila napupuno ang parties so talagang higpitan na lang ng sinturon (We can’t demand for a higher budget because some of these organizations can’t sell out their parties so we just have to tighten our belts),” Panlaqui said.
The surging fuel prices come during an election year and the American economy showing signs of slowly climbing out of a stubborn recession.
Alpapara believes how fuel prices behave will have a major impact on both. “This is definitely going to affect the economic recovery,” he averred but also wondered why neither the White House nor Capitol Hill is digging deeper into the causes of spiking fuel prices.
Both the GOP and Democrats appear to be sharpening their respective positions on higher gas prices for the coming political campaign.
“It’s an election year and the oil companies are among the biggest contributors to the campaigns of these officials who are running for office,” he surmised.
Meanwhile, Panlaqui is getting ready with the car pool. “Ginagawa namin convoy na lang. Dati 5 o 6 na sasakyan kami para pagkatapos kanya-kanyang uwi na. Ngayon 2 sasakyan na lang gamit namin; mas-tipid (We are resorting to convoys. Before we used to take 5 or 6 cars so we can go home directly. Now we just ride in 2 cars; it’s cheaper),” he explained.