By Felix N. Codilla III
Ormoc City — Government appears to be helpless in curbing the illegal sale of fuel by small retailers.
This was the impression that came about at a meeting called by the 14th Sangguniang Panlungsod’s Committee on Public Safety on a proposed ordinance regulating the retail of liquid petroleum products.
While government agencies have been trying to stop the illegal practice of selling fuel by the bottle, unclear mandates and legal loopholes have made it difficult to enforce the law, despite clear provisions that only gasoline stations are authorized to sell petroleum products.
For example, only the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) can inspect small neighborhood stores suspected of selling fuel. But based on the experience of Insp. Anthony de Paz, acting city fire marshal, they can be charged with trespassing even if they have an inspection order.
BFP officials also cannot make arrests. While fire personnel can confiscate fuel stored in soda bottles and displayed in the sari-sari stores, this is only in theory.
This is because the Fire Code of the Philippines allows dwelling units to store combustible and flammable liquids for a maximum of 94 liters.
BFP also cannot invoke the Fire Code provision that fuels must be placed in an approved container since the Department of Energy (DOE) has not come out with an approved standard container. The most that BFP inspectors can do is recommend the appropriate storing of petroleum products.
This leaves the job of catching illegal retailers to the police, but it would require a search warrant. But a warrant is not enough as sari-sari stores often deny selling fuel and claim the products were just being stocked for the owner’s personal consumption.