Robredo urges gov’t to reconsider fuel excise tax, 'fix' NFA

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Robredo urges gov�t to reconsider fuel excise tax, 'fix' NFA
The vice president also suggested to fix the leadership of the National Food Authority by picking a “competent and trustworthy” agency head and to immediately resolve the issue of rice shortage in the country.
Office of the Vice President

MANILA, Philippines — Liberal Party stalwarts, led by Vice President Leni Robredo, on Monday offered suggestions to address the spike in the prices of basic goods and services.

In a press briefing Monday, Robredo said the faster movement in the prices of commodities makes it harder for most Filipinos to catch up. 

Robredo, in a press conference, joined the calls of LP lawmakers to suspend the provision in the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law that raised the excise tax on fuel.

The law levies P6 per liter of diesel, cooking gas, kerosene and bunker fuel, which wil be implemented incrementally until 2020.

She also recommended a review of the unconditional cash transfer program, which provides P200 in aid monthly to indigent Filipinos.

Review safety nets

“The Department of Finance admitted that they did not expect this jump in inflation. From the department’s statement, it is now the time to consider if the increase in fuel excise tax is appropriate. It is also the time to review if the unconditional cash transfer amounting to P200 is enough and if the amount should be raised,” the vice president said in Filipino.

She added that the government should also widen the scope of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program conditional cash transfer program and fix institutions such as the Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.

Inflation jumped to a nine-year high of 5.7 percent in July on the back of higher food and transport cost. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has responded by raising its benchmark rates by a cumulative 100 basis points from May to August.

The central bank projected August inflation to settle at around 5.9 percent, with a range of 5.5 to 6.2 percent.

“We are hoping that the government will seriously look into our suggestions. Everyone, especially the poor, is affected by the spike in prices of goods and services,” she said.

RELATED: Piñol accepts challenge, eats bukbok rice

Rice crisis

The vice president also suggested "fixing" the leadership of the National Food Authority by picking a “competent and trustworthy” agency head and immediately resolving the issue of rice shortage in the country.

“Each decision, especially on the rice importation, must be well-thought and well-planned and must have the consensus of the NFA Council and the NFA leadership. Therefore, NFA processes must be fair, clean and honest for the agency to focus on stabilizing the prices of rice,” Robredo said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, LP president, said President Rodrigo Duterte should instruct the NFA Council to create a task force on rice emergency headed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

Duterte on Sunday said he will not fire NFA Administrator Jason Aquino and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol over the rice crisis.

The president also said he sees no “serious offense” committed amid the problems involving the country’s staple food.

Robredo disagreed with Duterte’s statement, saying that the rice crisis, which has led to a surge in prices of the staple food, is serious.

“It is a huge insult to poor Filipinos to say that the issue is not serious,” the vice president said.

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