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By Haidee V Eugenio

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (January 15, 2001 - Marianas Variety/PINA Nius Online)---Northern Marianas motorists are now paying three cents less for every gallon of regular and premium unleaded gasoline.

Oil giants Mobil Oil Mariana Islands, Inc. and Shell Marianas pointed to the lowered price of world crude oil as the basis for the pump price reduction.

The roll back comes as a remarkable post-holiday gift to local motorists, considering costs have gone up five times since February 2000 and ten times since April 1999.

Regular unleaded gasoline at Mobil and Shell filling stations is now $2.139 per gallon, down from the previous price of $2.169 per gallon.

Bernadette Valencia, retail manager for Mobil Oil Marianas, said the fuel cost reduction is a result of lower prices on the regional market as a result of the increased production worldwide.

"We have been closely monitoring the situation on fuel prices in the region, our product cost and expense reduction initiatives by the company and we are now able to pass on a savings to the consumers," Valencia said.

Mobil has not rolled back its fuel prices in years, while Shell rolled back its products in November 2000 to become identical with Mobil's prices.

"While the market outlook remains very uncertain and volatile, we are proactively seeking opportunities to ameliorate the impact of the world oil market situation to our valuable customers," said Mobil's Valencia.

Andrew Harford, Shell North Pacific president, said while the regional fuel price went down, the reduction is still not enough to cover for the series of hikes during the previous months.

Meanwhile, the government may re-issue the request for proposals for law firms interested in probing Mobil’s and Shell’s conduct of business in the Northern Marianas.

The planned investigation is aimed at determining whether or not Mobil and Shell are engaged in price-fixing and other anti trust law violations, and why local pump prices of gasoline products remain higher than nearby islands like Guam and Palau.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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