Commerce secretary hopes for gradual gas price hike once price-freeze is lifted

THE Department of Commerce can only hope for a gradual increase in gasoline prices once the price freeze in lifted.

Commerce Secretary Mark Rabauliman said as long as the governor’s emergency declaration is in effect, the price freeze for gasoline and other basic commodities stays.

On March 22, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres renewed his emergency declaration which includes a price freeze.

The governor first issued the emergency declaration after Super Typhoon Yutu devastated Saipan and Tinian on Oct. 24-25, 2018.

In an interview on Thursday Rabauliman said he recognizes that nothing stops business owners from raising prices “at the level they see fit.” “But we hope, as one community, that they will make gradual instead of extreme changes to their prices.”

The Commonwealth, he said has not recovered 100 percent from typhoon. “We are still feeling the effects of typhoon,” he added.

Rabauliman doesn’t foresee mom-and-pop stores drastically raising their prices despite the additional costs they have incurred during the price-freeze period.

But with gasoline prices, which are dictated by different factors, “it is very hard to say whether they are going to skyrocket or not” once the price-freeze ends.

“At the end of the day it is still the market that really dictates. So we can only hope they won’t go to extremes once the price-freeze is lifted,” he added.

On Saipan, the price of regular gasoline remains $3.93 a gallon. On Guam, where the price is historically less compared to Saipan, a gallon of gasoline already costs $4.35 a gallon.

Rabauliman hopes that Saipan residents will not wake up one day and see gas prices up by 40 cents.

“I know nothing stops them from reaching that price immediately once the freeze is lifted, but again, we all suffered together on these islands so we are hoping for a gradual increase,” he said.