efe-epaMexico City

Mexican state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has vowed not to reverse course in its fight against fuel theft, saying the strategy the government has adopted is working.

In a statement released late Thursday, Pemex also said that supplies of gasoline and diesel at service stations were returning to normal levels.

"The Mexican government's new strategy to end so-called 'huachicoleo' is effective, and we won't go backward in (the fight) against fuel theft, a crime that hurts the national economy and the pocketbooks of the Mexican people," the statement read.

Pemex said despite supply delays it will continue to carry out the new fuel-distribution strategy that involves delivering gasoline and diesel from refineries and ports to urban distribution centers via tanker trucks rather than pipelines (a frequent target of fuel thieves).

The company added that refineries and storage and dispatch terminals "are continuing to supply 800,000 barrels of gasoline per day to ensure that the demand (for fuel) in the country is met."

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, said Thursday that security will be bolstered along a 1,600-kilometer (995-mile) stretch of Pemex's pipeline network to help tackle the multi-billion-dollar crime.

He also said 4,000 members of security forces - including federal police and soldiers - and some air force helicopters would be enlisted in the fight against fuel theft.

AMLO, who took office in December, has urged people to remain calm despite supply delays in several states and on Friday said in his morning news conference that fuel thieves will have jobs under his administration and thus no excuse to commit crimes.

The leftist president said his fuel-theft strategy has already led to savings totaling nearly 3 billion pesos (around $156.5 million) and that the amount of fuel being stolen every day has fallen from the equivalent of roughly 800 tanker trucks per day to 100 per day.

The shift in distribution method has caused supply shortages in at least 10 states and Mexico City, forcing the closure of some filling stations and prompting panic buying.

Stealing fuel from Pemex-owned pipelines and re-selling it on the black market has become a major criminal enterprise in Mexico.

Theft of fuel from pipelines by organized crime groups cost Mexico some $3.4 billion last year, the government says.