By Mario B Casayuran
Senator Joseph Victor ‘’JV’’ Ejercito threw on Saturday his support behind a proposal of Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian that Congress issue a joint resolution asking President Duterte to suspend the collection of the second round of excise tax on fuel.
Ejercito, in a radio interview, made one step further by saying it would be better if the executive branch suspends the excise tax collection not only for six months but extend it to 12 months to give tax-burdened Filipinos a breathing spell.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, however, had stated that the suspension of the second round of excise tax collection might not take place because the price of crude oil in the world market is going down.
The senator and Gatchalian, both members of the Senate majority bloc, had complained that consumers had groaned under the heavy weight of high prices of goods caused by the increased excise fax on fuel and high inflation rate.
Gatchalian is chairman of the Senate economic affairs and energy committees while Ejercito is chairman of the Senate health committee.
The economic managers of the Duterte administration had agreed to the suspension of the collection of excise tax on fuel for three months, from January to March, 2019, because the projection is that the price crude oil in the international market was expected to continue to hover at more than $80 per barrel from October to January.
Under the controversial Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, the collection of excise tax on fuel could be suspended when the price of crude oil reaches $80 per barrel or more for three consecutive months.
Several senators had written President asking him to cause the suspension in the collection of the collection of excise tax on fuel.
Ejercito said he knows the President as a ‘’listening President’’ who takes care of his fellow countrymen and would certainly agree to the collection of the4 second round of excise taxes.
He said a passage by both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the joint resolution would be used by the President as a justification in suspending the collection of excise tax.
Ejercito said passage of the Universal Heath Care bill by Congress and its enactment into law would go a long way in helping Filipinos in their medical problems as they are already burdened by the excise tax collection.
He and Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara had said the signing into law by President of the measure would put an end to the current ‘’palliative and end of life care service’’ to patients with life-threatening diseases.
Both senators, among others, are authors of the bill.
Under the proposed measure, “every Filipino shall be granted immediate eligibility and access to preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative health services’’ as they would be covered by PhilHealth, Angara said.
Ejercito said the expected bicameral conference meeting of the Senate and Lower House panels during the current congressional recess did not materialize because members of the two groups could not agree on a schedule.
He said he is hopeful that the two panels would be able to sit down and agree on a consolidated bill and eventually signed into law by December.