Senators to talk to economic team after the withdrawal of suspension of fuel excise tax

Published December 1, 2018, 6:21 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators are hoping to talk to the government’s economic managers after they withdrew their proposal to suspend the imposition of the second round of excise tax on fuel products starting next year.

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Saturday said he will take advantage of the Senate’s deliberation of the 2019 national budget next week to meet members of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) on their recommendation to push through with the implementation of the increase in fuel excise taxes, under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.

Angara, chair of the Senate ways and means committee and sponsor of the TRAIN law, acknowledged the DBCC’s reason for recalling their initial plan to suspend the fuel excise, but said the government should fulfill its promise of helping those affected by the increased levies on goods.

He said the government should review the distribution and implementation of assistance to cushion the effects of the TRAIN Act, such as the unconditional cash transfer program, and several other social mitigating measures listed in the law.

“Kung tuluy-tuloy ang rollback [ng presyo ng langis], puwede sigurong iimplement ito (second round of excise tax). Pero ‘yong tatamaan na gipit na gipit na tao sa budget, dapat tulungan,” Angara said in an interview over DWIZ radio Saturday afternoon.

“Whether admin or opposition senators, ‘yon ang panawagan. ‘Pag inimplement ang buwis dapat implement din ang ayuda,” he added.

The government, he said, should prioritize the concerns of the people before its interest.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs, said he was surprised of the economic managers’ “sudden” change of heart.

Gatchalian said that while Dubai crude prices have decreased and that inflation has slowed down, prices of goods, he said, remained high.

“It is true that the increase in the prices of goods has stopped, but the prices remain high…For me, there is still a reason to suspend the additional P2 (in fuel excise tax) in the first quarter of next year,” he said in Filipino.

Gatchalian likewise said he wants to hear directly from the economic team its explanation for wanting to impose the additional fuel taxes.

Sen. Koko Pimentel, supporting his colleagues, said the government should go slow in implementing the increase in fuel excise especially that the country’s inflation rate has not yet returned to its original figure.

“Let’s also look at the inflation rate, not only on the prices of fuel,” the Senate trade committee chairman told DWIZ in a separate interview.

Pimentel raised fear that inflation rate may “spiral out of control” should the government continue its plan to impose the additional excise taxes on fuel products. He appealed that the economic managers see first the impact on fuel taxes on inflation, before increasing it.