MANILA -- The government can do little to arrest rising pump prices except tell people to adjust, the chairman of the Senate energy committee said.

Senator Sergio Osmena III said government threats to go after oil companies for overpricing are "silly" since there is no such crime.

He explained that since the price of oil has been deregulated, there is no cap on how much profit oil companies can reap.

"There is no such thing as too much profit," he said.

He added that exempting gasoline from Value-Added Tax as proposed by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri will not result in savings. He said that since VAT is imposed on all purchases, the exemption will only favor oil companies.

Doing so will only complicate the Bureau of Internal Revenue's job, he said, and will eat into money that could be used for poverty alleviation programs.

He said a better approach would be for the government to introduce demand side management policies like carpooling and using more energy efficient appliances.

"We cannot dictate prices. We have to learn that lesson. Government cannot subsidize prices (either)," he said. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)