Zarate: Inflation woes to get worse in 2019

By Ellson Quismorio

The Philippines' inflation woes will only get worse this 2019, Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate said.

Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN) Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

The primary reason for the opposition solon's dire prediction was the second tranche of additional excise taxes on oil and petroleum products that will be implemented this month, no thanks to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

"With the implementation of the second tranche of excise tax increases because of the TRAIN law, consumers should prepare for more and higher price shocks this year," said Makabayan bloc member Zarate, who hails from Davao City.

Skyrocketing prices of basic goods last year were blamed as the main cause of the hike in inflation, which raced to a new nine-year high of 6.7 percent in September.

For Zarate, the 5.2 percent average inflation rate for 2018 was "bound to get worse, contrary to the pretentious and trickery spins of the Duterte administration, particularly its economic managers."

He pointed out that last year's average inflation rate was the highest posted since 2009 and nearly doubled the 2.9 percent average inflation rate in 2017.

"Without a corresponding increase in the already stunted wage of our workers, we should brace for more hardships this year," the lawmaker said.

TRAIN, which took effect in January 2018, lowered income tax rates for Filipinos, with the tradeoff coming in the form of excise taxes on commodities such as petroleum products, coal, and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB). It is the first part of the Duterte administration's tax reform program.

"In fact some oil stations are already jacking up their prices even when the Department of Energy announced that the oil price increases should be by the second week of January," Zarate noted.

Meanwhile, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, chairman of the party-list, said the Supreme Court should immediately move to declare the TRAIN law unconstitutional.

"Again we are calling on the Supreme Court to decide as soon as possible on our case and declare the TRAIN law unconstitutional so that consumers would have some relief," Colmenares said.