Fri, 18 Jul 2003

Fuel scarcity makes Bukittinggi people anxious

Kasparman Piliang, The Jakarta Post, Padang, West Sumatra

Premium gasoline has been hard to find at gas stations in Bukittinggi regency, West Sumatra, since three days ago, when many business activities and the operations of offices and vehicles was suddenly stalled.

The fuel scarcity hit the tourist city on Tuesday, with gasoline not available at five gas stations.

Spokesman for the West Sumatra provincial administration, Yuen Karnova, confirmed on Thursday, the shortage of gasoline in Bukittinggi.

However, he could not identify the cause of the scarcity. "It may be a result of the rising influx of visitors to the city," Yuen said.

Since this year's school holiday period, in July, visitors from provinces across the country have flooded Bukittinggi. Many driving private vehicles to the tourist city, in a situation reminiscent to that of previous school vacation periods.

The shortage of gasoline has caused anxiety among local residents as the situation has hampered their business activities, even stopping operations.

"If this situation is not tackled immediately, city activity will be at a standstill," Yuen said.

Local officials said that due to the shortages, premium gasoline was being sold for Rp 2,500 per liter, an increase from the usual price of Rp 2,000 per liter.

Motorists had to travel to remote parts of Bukittiggi to find fuel but they were only able to purchase a maximum of five liters each.

Fitri Erika, spokesman for state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina, in the West Sumatra capital of Padang, said her office had been notified of the fuel scarcity in Bukittinggi.

She said the shortages were caused by a delay in gasoline supplies on the way from the Riau town of Dumai, around 300-400 kilometers from Bukittinggi, and Cilacap regency in Central Java.

Fitri could not explain why the supply was stalled.

Pertamina's Dumai depot normally supplies gasoline not only to Bukittinggi, but also to the neighboring towns of Batusangkar, Payakumbuh and Pasaman.

Padang's usual supply arrived at the Pertamina depot from Cilacap via shipment from Bungus Teluk Kabung, West Sumatra.

"The ship loaded with 11,000 liters of gasoline from Cilacap was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday morning. But because of an unspecified problem it only arrived at Bungus Teluk Kabung on Wednesday night," Fitri said.

"We hope every thing will return to normal today (Thursday)," she added.

Fitri also blamed the fuel scarcity on the increased demand for fuel in the province, which she said had reached at least 831 kiloliters per day.