Bruneians race to gas stations to beat no-subsidy day

(Top) A long queue of cars could be seen at the Syarikat Amanah Hj Abdullah Filling Station in Kilanas last night. (Above) Motorists queuing up at a petrol station in their last bid to avoid having to pay the commercial price when fuel subsidies are retracted for a day today. Pictures: BT/Fitri Shahminan

Monday, May 24, 2010

THERE were long queues at several petrol filling stations across Brunei-Muara District last night as motorists stock up on fuels in their last bid to avoid having to pay the commercial price when fuel subsidies are retracted for a day today.

Because of the long queues, several filling stations even went beyond their normal closing hours of 10pm.

All filling stations in the country are imposing commercial pricing of all gasoline (Premium 97, Super 92 and Regular 85) and diesel products. The one-day price hike on fuel is an undertaking of the Energy Division at the Prime Minister's Office to mark "Energy Day" to raise awareness on the importance of conserving energy.

The "No Subsidy Day" drew mixed reaction from the people interviewed by The Brunei Times yesterday.

"I don't think that the idea is good. I doubt that Bruneians would even try it (buying fuel at commercial price), because we are spoiled," said a local entrepreneur who just wanted to be named as Zan.

Stocking up on fuel for both his cars on the same day yesterday, he said that he was not willing to pay the fuel's unsubsidised price as it would be "too expensive to bear for Bruneians".

"Bruneians, in the past several decades have been used to the current price of 53 cents per litre (subsidised price for Premium 97), raising it to 98 cents per litre is way too expensive," he told The Brunei Times at the Gadong Filling Station.

Also caught trying to dodge the unsubsidised oil price was Oscar Rosaupan, a truck driver employed by Rentokil Initial (B) Sdn Bhd, a company offering exterminating and pest control services.

"I was told by my supervisor to buy full-tank of petrol tonight because the price will go up tomorrow and become expensive," he shared at the Syarikat Amanah Hj Abdullah Filling Station in Kilanas.

Rosaupan, however, said that the campaign was very important to all Bruneians as it was all about saving energy.

A sales attendant at the filling station, who just wanted to be named as Mahadine, said that he was working on the afternoon shift which started at around 3pm yesterday and the customer turn-ups were already "out of the ordinary".

"It was like Hari Raya or other big festivities as customers queue up to buy petrol at the very last minute," he said, adding that the station would still be expecting the long queue until 12pm last night.

Mahadine, who had to handle traffic as well due to heavy traffic congestion at the station also said that the campaign was an initiative that should be respected and observed by Bruneians as they never know if one-day there would be no more subsidies on fuel.

This was also voiced by another sales attendant at the Gadong Filling Station, Aisah Hj Lupa, who said that by avoiding the unsubsidised oil price, Bruneians were not fully observing the Energy Day and thus, the energy-conservation message would not be completely delivered to them.

"We don't know if one day oil price will experience a hike for real, we need to experience this, even just for a day," she said.

A Universiti Brunei Darussalam male student, who opted for anonymity, commented that the campaign on no fuel subsidy day was a good idea.

He added that members of the public should realise fuel is not going to be subsidised forever.

"I think that a lot of people will still be in denial about the fact that they will not be able to enjoy subsidised fuel for a long time by refilling petrol for their vehicles the day before the campaign," said the 23-year-old.

In addition, he suggested that the no-subsidy day should be carried out for three days or a week to have a better feedback.

Meanwhile, an accountant who also wished to remain anonymous said that a lot of people in Brunei, were ignorant about the fact that in the future fuel would no longer be subsidised.

"I am also not willing to buy (fuel) at commercial price and am not prepared if in a few months the government decides to remove the subsidy," said the accountant, adding that should the government do so, then they would need to look at providing transportation options considering Brunei's poor public transport system.

A math teacher, Hafizah Mohidin, thought that the campaign was a smart move undertaken by the government to create awareness on the importance of energy conservation amongst Bruneians.

The 25-year-old said that she would be keen to buy petrol at a maximum of $10 today just to have a taste of the no-subsidy price.

"Usually if I top up my fuel to 10 dollars I'm quite happy already as it can last about two and a half days, but I wonder with unsubsidised price how long it would last. A day, I would assume," she said.

Hj Harun Md Hj Tahir, 43, who was filling up on fuel for his car at the Shell Berakas, said he was preparing for the worst thinking that with the results of "Energy Day" they might continue the "no subsidy trend".

"With the reaction you see people having now with just one day, you know that the authorities might consider this new rule," he said. "But, whatever the decision or act is, I'm just preparing for anything that might happen cause I drive a lot to do my daily errands."

He hoped the subsidy would teach the public including himself, to learn how to use car fuel more wisely but with a less tragic course of action by the authorities or reaction from the public.

"I really don't like this idea of suddenly having no subsidy for fuel introduced to us as part of Energy Day with only two or three days before," said 23-year-old Md Yusran Hj Abidin. "I agree it's nice that the country decides to celebrate Energy Day but at least provide us with an alternative when it comes to fuel because it is one of the daily resources we use."

He said that it was a relief that the no subsidy pricing would only for a day as " I don't think I'll be able to afford his daily expenses with a higher price for my car fuel."

"If worse comes to worse, I think I would just have to car pool with my friends if I want to go out with my friends."

The Brunei Times

(With additional reporting by Susan Shim)


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