Fishermen join protest vs TRAIN
Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A group of militant fishermen has joined the chorus of protests against the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), warning of the new law’s negative impact on earnings stemming from spikes in fuel prices.

In a statement, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) called for the scrapping of the TRAIN, saying it would only be an additional burden to fishermen and other ordinary Filipinos.

It said fishermen from Navotas City, for instance, had to deal with higher gasoline price from P43 per liter before the enactment of the TRAIN in December to P49.20 as of Jan. 4.

“This means small fisherfolk who regularly consume 12 liters of gasoline per fishing trip has to prepare at least P516 to P600 for the gasoline alone,” Pamalakaya chairman Fernando Hicap said.

Pamalakaya said expenses for fuel represent almost 80 percent of costs per fishing trip, while food for boat owner and a companion cost P150 and tricycle fare P40. Overall, a six to eight hour fishing trip could cost a small fisherman P706 to P790.

The group noted that the output in every fishing trip was not usually enough to cover expenses.

“Because they can’t even earn the cost of production, fisherfolk have to borrow money with excessive interest rates to cover the production costs of their next fishing operation, making them buried in debt,” Hicap explained.

“The fisherfolk are already battered by numerous issues: namely, the fish catch depletion due to corporate plunder of marine resources, the anti-fisherfolk law that allows commercial fishing fleets to exploit municipal waters and the government’s lack of support to our sector. Now the skyrocketing prices of oil products under the new tax-reform law will exacerbate the miserable condition of the country’s poorest of the poor,” he said.

“We want to remind President Duterte that the small-scale fishers do not have a regular income so the decrease of income tax is actually worthless to us, but whether we like it or not, we would be bearing the brunt of unbridled increase of basic commodities and oil products,” he pointed out.

In Clark Freeport in Pampanga, locators are worried about the succeeding “packages” of the TRAIN amid proposals to adjust the current five percent tax based on Gross Income Earned (GIE).

“This is something that concerns us as it would affect Clark’s desirability as investments destination for foreign direct investments (FDI),” said Irineo Alvaro, chairman of the Clark Investors and Locators Association (CILA).

CILA president Francisco Villanueva said at a forum that changing the GIE policy would discourage investors as it could indicate lack of security in their investments.

Alvaro and Villanueva said the government should hold consultations with them and with other economic zone investors in the country before finalizing the TRAIN’s remaining packages.

The Department of Finance earlier called for the swift passage of the TRAIN’s Package 1-B to ensure the government’s fiscal position remains stable and its deficit target attainable. – With Ding Cervantes

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