By Ellson Quismorio
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was accused yesterday of hardly doing anything to abate the skyrocketing prices of basic goods.
ACT-Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio, a member of the militant Makabayan bloc, made the accusation, citing the DTI’s own alleged explanation on why product prices are on the upswing.
“Yung DTI… mismo, inaamin nila sa kanilang presentasyon; ‘di ba sinasabi nila, ‘Huwag nating sisihin ang TRAIN sa pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin.’ Kasi sabi nila ang mas malaking bahagi daw niyan ay profiteering daw. Yan ang sinasabi nila di ba (The DTI itself is admitting in it’s presentations, they’re saying ‘Let’s not blame TRAIN for the hike in product prices.” They say that a big part of it has to do with profiteering daw. That’s what they’re saying right)?” he said.
TRAIN refers to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, which is the first part of the Duterte administration’s tax reform package. The new law added an excise on petroleum, the cost of which has a ripple effect on the prices of other goods.
“Actually what’s being said there is, the DTI is doing nothing about this profiteering. If they will stand by their explanation then it’s like they’re admitting that they’re just letting traders slap on additional costs due to TRAIN,” Tinio said in Filipino.
He further described it as a slip of the tongue that has placed the administration in a bad light.
“So nahuhuli mismo sila na wala silang sapat na ginagawa, ang administrasyon upang kontrolin ang sobrang pagtaas ng presyo. Dapat nga maging mas aktibo at agresibo ang DTI sa pagmonitor at pagkontrol sa overpricing (So we’ve caught them that the administration isn’t doing enough to control the excessive price hikes.
The DTI should actually be more aggressive in monitoring and controlling overpricing),” said Tinio.
The TRAIN Act lowered income tax rates for Filipinos, with the tradeoff coming in the form of excise or a tax added on commodities such as petroleum products, coal, and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB). It took effect last January.
It will levy P1 per kilogram (kg) this year on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), with P2/kg and P3/kg increases coming in 2019 and 2020, respectively. It will also impose a P2.50, P4.50, and P6 per liter increase on diesel for 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively.
TRAIN will also add P7, P9, and P10 per liter and P3, P4, and P5 per liter on gasoline and kerosene costs, respectively, during those same years.
Pulse Asia’s March 2018 Ulat ng Bayan survey indicated that almost all Filipinos believe the prices of basic commodities have gone up, with some 86 percent saying they were strongly affected by the increases.
According to the survey, some 98 percent of 1,200 Filipinos polled believe there were increases in the costs of the commodities they usually buy, like food (92 percent of participants), non-rice items (67 percent), rice (81 percent), and sugar sweetened beverages (56 percent).
Also more costly were electricity bills (30 percent), fares (7 percent), transportation-related items such as fuel (22 percent), medicine and other health-related needs (9 percent), alcoholic drinks (4 percent), cigarettes (5 percent), water (2 percent), cellphone load (3 percent), and recreation related expenses (1 percent).
CHED backs TRAIN
Meanwhile, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said it “fully” supports the TRAIN law, because it funds the Free Higher Education law that benefits students and their families
CHED Commissioner Prospero De Vera said the “TRAIN law does not only increase the take-home pay of Filipinos by reducing income tax , but it also funds the Free Higher Education law that puts more money in the pockets of students and their families.”
He said that the Duterte Administration put close to P8 billion in the pockets of parents of around 900,000 students enrolled in 112 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in the country from the Free Tuition initiative of the government in academic year 2017- 2018.
According to De Vera, P16 billion was added in the pockets of the families of some 1.3 million students in the 112 SUCs and 78 CHED-recognized Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs) after President Duterte signed RA 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA)” law in August 2017.
He said Filipino families can now spend the money for their household needs. (With a report from Jel Santos)