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Carbon tax eyed on Philippine polluters

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is eyeing the imposition of a carbon tax or an added levy on companies who contribute to the country’s air pollution by way of harmful emissions that can only worsen the impact of climate change.

“A carbon tax would not only help us comply with our international commitments to help curb global warming; we can also use the proceeds from the tax to develop clean energy production processes for our industries,” Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte suggested.

He said this is one measure the administration of President Duterte should consider in view of the country’s adherence to the Paris Climate Change Agreement signed by nearly 200 countries in December 2015.

The first-termer lawmaker called on the government to seriously consider the implementation in the near future of a carbon tax on man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions now that the world’s economies have finally reached an agreement.

Villafuerte said imposing a carbon tax on man-made polluters should be considered by the Duterte administration under its multi-year comprehensive tax program, the first package of which was endorsed to the Senate and the House of Representatives last month.

He issued the statement after a landmark pact reached in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali on a timetable to phase out hydroflourocarbons, a type of hydrocarbon used in refrigerators and air-conditioners, that is seen as a major step in curbing global warming.

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Under the legally binding agreement, the use and manufacture of HFCs will be made to decline in three phases: industrialized economies will begin by 2019; China, Brazil and Africa by 2024, and India, Pakistan and many others by 2028.

Villafuerte said he is currently working on a proposed carbon tax bill that he plans to file in the current 17th Congress as he is still weighing the pros and cons on the impact of such a measure on developing economies like the Philippines. 

“We are studying how we can implement a carbon tax gradually through several stages, without adversely affecting the government’s planned infrastructure buildup over the next six years, as well as the development of economic zones outside Metro Manila,” he said.   

“Our goal is to strike a balance between protecting the environment and sustaining our high growth, like what we had earlier proposed to Malacañang in reviewing our energy mix,” the Bicolano legislator said, mindful of Duterte’s plan to industrialize through massive infra.

Villafuerte earlier urged the government to strike a “happy balance” between environmental protection and high growth in revisiting the country’s energy mix, so it could come up with an electricity generation program that would help protect Mother Earth and at the same time ensure energy security and keep the economy on its upward trajectory.

He said the government must put premium on the fast-track harnessing of renewable energy (RE) sources like solar and wind power, but it must also acknowledge the similar importance of sufficient, reliable, steady, secure and relatively cheaper sources like coal power, in view of the apparently critical electricity supply especially in the Luzon grid. 

“The Department of Energy must strike a happy balance between environmental protection and high economic growth as it revisits the past government’s 30-30-30 energy mix to come up with a power-generation program that would meet the burgeoning demand of businesses and households over the medium- and long-term,” Villafuerte said.

“Pursuing eco-friendly initiatives in sync with the international campaign against global warming should top our government’s concerns, but it must also consider the imperative of adequate – and cheap – energy supply against the backdrop of ever increasing power demand brought about by a surging domestic economy,” he added.

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