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Problems with diesel supply persist

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Five days after Hurricane Fiona, many businesses and supermarkets were operating with generators, while diesel distributors tried to meet the excessive demand.

“Dealers are stopping answering our phones. And those who do, say that the chain of priorities are the hospitals”commented an executive of a supermarket chain, who preferred not to be identified and that yesterday he had more than two thirds of his stores without electricity.

Noel De Jesús, from JJ Petroleum, and a diesel distributor for 30 years, told The new day that there are so many shopping malls, gas stations, supermarkets and hospitals, among others, working with generators, that the suppliers cannot cope.

“We would need hundreds more trucks,” the dealer said. He also pointed out that wholesalers have taken too long to have diesel available and have limited deliveries, even to the distributors themselves.

Most dealers report the same situation. They stand in lines at the wholesalers’ terminals and send them less quantity than requested.

One of them was Puma Energy, which last night received a ship with 235,000 barrels of diesel. Mario Sierra, president of Puma Energy Caribe, told this media outlet – by mistake – that the ship would arrive last Thursday. It will be from today, Saturday, that the office would be normalized.

This newspaper learned that at the beginning of next week, Peerless -in Peñuelas- will receive two ships and one of them will bring diesel. Last Thursday, LUMA Energy energized the Buckeye terminal in Yabucoa, which should speed up fuel distribution.

During the week, the secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO), Edan Rivera Rodríguez, assured that Puerto Rico had sufficient supplies of diesel and indicated that he was not aware of any problems.

However, since last Tuesday, The new day revealed that there were problems in the distribution of gasoline.

Yesterday, the government of Pedro Pierluisi activated the National Guard to help distribute fuel to hospitals and supermarkets.

The decision, however, came a day after The new day revealed that the operations of dozens of supermarkets, other companies and even senior centers were hanging by a thread. Faced with the continuing lack of electricity, their emergency plans were stretched to the limit as they were unable to refuel their generators with diesel.

The new day contacted some supermarket chains to find out when they will receive their diesel orders, but so far, no one had contacted them or the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution (MIDA).

“We still don’t have what the delivery logistics will be like, nor do we know how they are going to divide the country,” said Luis Oriol, executive director of Agranel supermarkets.

40% of its stores have electricity and the remaining 60% -28 establishments- are operating with diesel. The chain got fuel for two more days. They trust that before next Monday, LUMA will energize the areas where they operate or can refuel their backup generators.

“The supermarket owner who bought 500 gallons of diesel, they give him 200 or 250 gallons,” added Oriol.

On the other hand, the Pepsi manufacturing plant in Toa Baja – whose problems with electricity and diesel were also revealed by this newspaper – was energized at dawn yesterday, said José Sanabria, general director of the company in Puerto Rico.

The energization prevented Pepsi from stopping its operations, since its diesel supplies ran out yesterday. Its fuel distributors explained that, as the Yabucoa terminal was also energized, they will deliver supplies between today and Monday.

“Regularizing the entire diesel supply chain will take several days. Let’s hope that supermarkets and various customers, hotels, hospitals endure, “added the CEO of Pepsi.

Likewise, several shopping centers already have electricity, among them, San Patricio Plaza and Plaza Caparra in Guaynabo, Centro del Sur in Ponce and El Cantón Mall in Bayamón. Others, in contrast, remain closed, such as Mayagüez Mall, Premium Outlets in Barceloneta and Plaza del Caribe in Ponce. Meanwhile, Pérez Hnos Plaza in Cayey operates with a generator.

Yesterday, even gas stations lacked diesel, both for sale and to keep their establishments open. At least 50 stations of different brands did not have the product, said Esdras Vélez, president of the Association of Gasoline Retailers.

Vélez questioned why, if the government knew which distribution companies had diesel, it did not share that information with businesses that have been operating with generators for a week, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, bakeries, medical offices and condominiums.

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