By Vanne Ellaine Terrazola
Seven senatorial candidates have agreed that the fuel excise taxes implemented under the Duterte administration’s Tax Reform for Inclusion for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act should be reconsidered for its effects on consumer and oil prices.
During the fourth and final ABS-CBN Harapan 2019 senatorial townhall debates on Sunday night, eight senatorial bets were asked by a jeepney driver on their plan to lower the prices of fuel products.
Partido Lakas ng Masa bet and labor leader Leody de Guzman blamed the excise taxes imposed on petroleum products for the “incessant” increase of oil prices.
“Una siguro isuspinde yong TRAIN Law kasi iyon ang nagdagdag ng excise tax. Dapat i-review ‘yan. (Maybe the TRAIN implementation of the TRAIN Law should be suspended because this added the excise taxes in fuel. That should be reviewed),” he said.
Reelectionist Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, meanwhile, recalled having reservations in voting for the passage of the tax reform measure, saying excise taxes on fuel should not be too high as it would burden public utility vehicles and fishermen. He also conceded that because of the law, PUV drivers only bring home “measly” income.
Should he be elected anew in the Upper Chamber, the Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition bet said he will file a bill amending the TRAIN law to remove the levy on petroleum products.
“Kung may pagkakataon na aking amyendahan, iyon po ang ating amendment na ipo-propose,” (If there will be chance to amend it, that will be the amendment I would propose),” he said.
Ejercito, on the other hand, defended his vote for the TRAIN law for the revenues it would raise for the present administration’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.
“Bumoto po ako sa TRAIN law dahil sa hiling na rin ng ating Pangulo, at dahil ang intensyon nito ay para mapasigla ang ekonomiya, kinakailangan natin mag-invest sa imprastraktura. At mayroon din pong proseso. Kung sa tingin namin, na ito’y pagkakamali, ito’y dapat amyendahan,” the incumbent lawmaker said.
(I voted for the TRAIN Law because of the President’s appeal, and it’s intention is that we could strengthen our economy if we invest in infrastructure. And we have a process to follow. If we see that it is a mistake, then we should amend it.)
Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) candidate Elmer Francisco likewise believed that the excise taxes on crude should be suspended, saying the government should “stop” experimenting on the consumers.
Coming from the jeepney-manufacturing sector, Francisco also urged the use of biodiesel since it is more affordable and enivironment-friendly. It would be better, he said, to shift to electric jeepneys since these would not require fuel.
Francisco also proposed implementing a “boundary-hulog” system for jeepney drivers “to raise their income.”
Dado Padilla, also of the PFP, also supported the review of the TRAIN law as he said this put ina a disadvantage not only jeepney drivers but all consumers. “Dapat mareview itong TRAIN law na ito para makita na ang naapektuhan nito ay mga mahihirap,” he said.
Kilusang Demokratiko ng Pilipinas bet RJ Javellana also vowed to remove not only the excise taxes, but also the value-added taxes, imposed on petroleum products.
United Nationalist Alliance senatorial bet and lawyer Dan Roleda, for his part, said that while fuel prices are also dictated by global market, it is high time for the government to intervene and pause its implementation of the excise taxes under the TRAIN law.
Roleda also noted that the country’s problem in traffic congestion also contributes to the problem of jeepney drivers.
“Kailangna mabilis ang daloy ng trapiko, para mas marami silang pasada at maramin silang pasaherong makukuha, maraming kikitain,” Roleda said.
Independent candidate and lawyer Ernesto Arellano also agreed with the suspension of TRAIN act.
Oil industry regulation, ‘nationalization’
Aside from TRAIN, some of the senatorial aspirants in the last Harapan debate believed that the law deregulating the oil sector should be repealed and that the government should have control over its prices.
Republic 8479, or the “Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act” enacted in 1998, liberalized the country’s oil industry to “ensure a truly competitive market under a regime of fair prices,” and encourage entry of new participants in the oil sector. The Department of Energy monitors them.
“Dapat baligtarin talaga ‘yong oil deregulation law. Dapat iregulate at magkaroon ng kontrol ang gobyerno…Magkaroon ng regulasyon, ‘wag bigyan ng laya ‘yong nagsasamantala na kumpanya ang langis,” De Guzman said.
“Tanggalin ang oil deregulation law, isabansa ang oil industry,” Javellana said.
“Ang review ng oil deregulation ay makakatulong…Ilagay natin sa public ownership ang mga industries para sa mga basic needs para hindi subjected to private profit ang kalagayan ang empleydo, ng mga mamamayan. It (oil industry) should be publicly owned,” Arellano said.
Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino bet Toti Casino, meanwhile, floated the former President Ferdinand Marcos’ proposal to create a “strategic” Philippine oil reserve so that the government can fill the lack of oil supply during global crises.
“Nakakapag-ipon tayo kung kailan mababa ang presyo ng langis, sa ganoon, pag tumaas ang presyo ng langis, mabebenta natin nang muarnakakpag ipon tayo kung kelan mabab nag prsuo langis, mabebenta nang mura,” Casino said.
Of his fellow candidates in the fourth Harapan debates, only Casino was mum on TRAIN law. #MatalinongBoto2019