GAS HITS $4.04 A GALLON ON SAIPAN

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World oil prices top $100 a barrel

By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 26, 2008) – Fuel prices on Saipan, Tinian, Rota and Guam, soared yesterday to a new record high after the crude oil prices hit $100 a barrel in the international market over the weekend.

On Saipan, Mobil and Shell retail stations are now selling unleaded fuel at $4.04 a gallon — or 49 cents higher than the CNMI’s minimum wage rate of $3.55 an hour.

On Tinian, the price is $4.61 a gallon. On Rota, it’s $4.70.

On Guam, unleaded fuel now costs $3.91 a gallon while premium gas is sold at $4.08.

Denny Lami-Ing, a cashier at a Rota Mobil gasoline station, said they have had fewer customers in recent months due to the constant rise in fuel prices.

Lami-Ing said to cope with the high cost of living in Rota, most of them have to hitch a ride or help pay for the gasoline of those who give them a ride.

"We can’t do anything, life is hard," he said.

Neneth Quimson said their office and other business establishments on Tinian are also reeling from the impact of higher gasoline prices.

Quimson, who works at SN-Five, one of few gasoline stations on Tinian, said their office has implemented a new policy requiring all errands to be done at the same time.

"Let’s say we’ll have orders for water this day," she said. "Before, when a customer called to ask for a delivery, we would deliver it right away. These days, when we get one order, we wait for another so we can deliver them at the same time to save on fuel costs."

She said other motorists on Tinian no longer use their car air-conditioners to save on fuel expenses.

On Saipan, some residents said they have sold their vehicles that tend to consume more fuel.

"The fuel price is just too high and even if they increase our salaries by 50 cents, it won’t still add up because the minimum wage is just too low," said a contract worker who asked not to be identified.

Residents are now also bracing for higher power rates as the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is expected to pass on to consumers any increase in the price of imported fuel.

CUC charges residential customers an electric fuel rate of 25.8 cents per kilowatt.

Importers are also expecting higher shipping costs due to the rising fuel prices.

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