Twin fronts to lower prices of goods and electricity

Published June 5, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Atty. Vic Dimagiba

The advocacy for consumer empowerment continues and, in this column, I will discuss two important updates on our efforts to promote consumer welfare.

Firstly, as President of Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI), I wrote to Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, Chair of the Senate committee on trade,  and entrepreneurship;  Congressman John Rey Tiangco, Chair of House committee on trade and industry; and Congressman Joey Salceda of the House ways and means committee on the matter of indirect taxes like safeguard duty, dumping duty and import duties. This move was done in order to further protect the consumers during the pandemic, and prevent indirect taxes from further burdening them during a time where they may find it difficult to make ends meet.

I said that Laban Konsyumer Inc. is submitting the proposal that will stop passing on to the consumers the indirect taxes imposed on certain business such as safeguard and dumping duties and higher duties on imported cement, ceramic tiles, vehicles   rice and meat products.

I explained that “Under existing tax laws and cases, the liability for the payment of the indirect taxes fall on one person, the statutory taxpayer; however, the burden thereof can be shifted and passed on to another person, such as the tax is imposed upon the goods before reaching the consumers who ultimately pay for it as part of the purchase price. In this event, the consumer pays more for the goods.”

I highlighted that “the current tax laws and cases on indirect tax laws defeat the objective of imposing duties on imported rice, meat products, cement, ceramic tiles and vehicles by way of extending protection to local industries. In any event, the indirect taxes are shifted and the burden passed on to the consumers (PAL vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. 198759, July 1, 2013).”

I proposed that Congress introduce amendments to the shifting process and stop the passing of the tax burden to the consumers. We also need to prevent windfall profits of the statutory taxpayer in the event of a favorable appeal against the duty and a refund awarded to the taxpayer.

I concluded by saying “these measures will ensure consumer welfare and protection if we can prevent these taxes from being passed on to the  consumers and further burdening them during this pandemic so we call for action and hope that these recommendations will be applied, followed and implemented as soon as possible.”

Also, I would like to update my readers that on another front on this advocacy to protect the consumer especially during pandemic, I wrote to Senator William Gatchalian and Congressman Juan Miguel M. Arroyo, Chairpersons of the energy committees and  explained  that “this is a proposal from the Laban Konsyumer Inc. to Senator Gatchalian and Congressman Arroyo for the filing of a Bill that shall implement the policy announcement of DOE  Secretary Cusi in the hearing of April 27, 2021 on the removal of the Feed in Tariff or FIT that are paid to the renewable energy developers .”

The Congressional records will show that Secretary Cusi categorically affirmed in the JCEC hearing his announcement that they have stopped and removed the FIT that causes higher electricity rate to the consumers.

To set in motion the policy statement into a law, our consumer group proposed for Congress to amend the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 or Republic Act 9513 and the Murang Kuryente Act or Republic Act No. 11371.

First, I refer to the repeal of Section 7 on Feed in Tariff System.

Second, there is a   need to incorporate the Competitive Selection Process in the sale of electricity by the renewable energy developers and the procurement of electricity by Distribution Utilities which is currently embodied in a Department of Energy Circular DC 2018-02-0003.

Third, for the consumers to feel immediately the impact of the removal of the FIT, we also propose that the Feed in Tariff Allowance or FIT ALL being paid by the consumers that increases every year could be absorbed under the Murang Kuryente Act or Republic Act No. 11371. This will require the amendment of Section 4 of the MKA.

I truly hope that with thesetwin efforts, our advocacy group will be able to enhance and improve the livelihoods and status of our common Filipino consumers.

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