Opposition senators call for suspension of fuel excise tax

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 10) — Minority senators filed a resolution on Wednesday calling for the suspension of fuel excise tax under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law in January 2019.

Senators Franklin Drilon, Kiko Pangilinan, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes IV, and detained Senator Leila de Lima stressed the need for the urgent intervention of the Congress to mitigate the inflationary effects of rising fuel prices by suspending the increases in excise tax on fuel.

The Senate Joint Resolution No. 15 also seeks to mandate the roll back of the excise tax on fuel to the rates as of December 31, 2017.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he is considering the suspension of the excise tax on oil, to help consumers deal with the soaring prices of goods. In a media interview, the country's chief executive said the Finance Department is already studying the possibility of slashing at least two pesos off fuel prices.

Senator Bam Aquino welcomed Duterte's pronouncement.

"Lubos tayong nasisiyahan na bukas siya at pinag-iisipan na ni Pangulong Duterte ang pagsuspinde sa pagtaas ng buwis sa petrolyo ngayong Enero," Aquino said in a statement Wednesday.

"Umaasa po kami na kayang magkaisa ang iba't ibang partido sa gobyerno upang magkatotoo ang suspension ng excise tax at bawasan ang presyo ng petrolyo."

[Translation: We are glad that President Duterte is open to the possibility of suspending the excise fuel tax increase this January. We are hoping that different government agencies will work together to achieve this suspension-to hopefully bring down the prices of fuel.]

However, in a Malacañang press briefing, Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino said suspending excise tax won't address high inflation, which hit 6.7 percent in September.

He said food items — not oil — is the main driver of the high inflation.

"Ang pinakamataas na commodities pagdating sa inflation rate ay food items, hindi po petroleum. Food items. Rice, fish, vegetables, and meat," he said in a media briefing

[Translation: When it comes to inflation rate, the highest value for the commodities are food items, and not petroleum. Food items. Rice, fish, vegetables, and meat.]

He added suspending the scheduled P2 per kilo fuel excise tax in 2019 won't do much to pull down the inflation rate, warning suspending it will result in P40 billion in foregone revenues for the government.

Trade Secretary Mon Lopez said that what the public doesn't see are those who benefit from the fuel excise tax, such as the military and policemen who receive salary increase.

"Naka-budget na siya. On the other side, there are benefits. Ang daming nagbebenefit, nakaabang ito sa revenue na mage-generate,"he told CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday.

[Translation: There's already a budget. On the other side, there are benefits. A lot of people will benefit from the revenue that will be generated.]

He said the suspension mechanisms for excise tax should be followed.

Gov't not to blame for inflation

Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, Duterte told critics not to blame the government for the soaring inflation. He said the rising prices of fuel should be considered the main culprit for the country's current woes.

"You crucify government, you crucify everybody. Think of oil," Duterte said.

"Pag sinabing there will be increase in oil, bukas, susunod lahat 'yan." [Translation: If there will be an oil increase, then expect that tomorrow, all prices will also go up.]

 

Under the current law, fuel excise tax can only be suspended once Dubai crude oil prices reaches $80 per barrel for a period of three months before the scheduled next increase of fuel excise taxes.

Under the TRAIN, regular and premium unleaded gas went up by ?7 per liter this year, and will rise by P9 in 2019, and P10 in 2021. Prices for diesel and fuel for public transportation increased by P2.50 per liter in 2018, and will rise by P4.50 in 2019 and P6 in 2020. Prices for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) rose by P1 per kilogram this year and will rise another peso annually until 2020.