Labor group wants fuel tax hike suspended amid US-Iran tension
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino said the tension between the US and Iran could mean higher fuel prices, which low-income workers would need a "cushion" from. 
The STAR/Edd Gumban, file
Labor group wants fuel tax hike suspended amid US-Iran tension
Franco Luna ( - January 5, 2020 - 12:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — Days after the third tranche of excise tax on fuels took effect, labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino called on the government to suspend the increases in anticipation of fuel prices shooting up over rising tensions in the Middle East.

BMP said the tension between the US and Iran could mean higher fuel prices, which low-income workers would need a "cushion" from. 

“Any increase in prices would be harsh, if not fatal, not only to four-tenths of our labor force that belong to the informal economy but also to those in the formal sector who are already suffering from stagnated and starvation wages,” BMP chairperson Leody de Guzman said.

In the four days since the turn of the new year, gasoline prices saw an increase of P1, while P1.50 was added to diesel prices and P1 for kerosene as part of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act. 

On top of the additional taxes, the final prices for fuels are still subjected to the 12% value-added tax. 

Republic Act 10963 imposes higher taxes on fuel products to raise funds for government infrastructure and other projects.

Party-list Bayan Muna said last Monday the higher excise taxes could mean an increase of P7 per liter for diesel in January, given the price of transporting from depots to outlets.

“If apologists in the bureaucracy would argue against the suspension of oil taxes by pointing to losses in government revenue, then the BMP demands that it pursue other sources, particularly by increasing taxes on properties, luxuries, and corporate incomes,” De Guzman added. 

Filipinos in poverty 

On Wednesday, labor alliance Pagkakaisa ng Uring Manggagawa, or Paggawa warned that the coming year would be marked by more protests and demonstrations over government policies that it said burdened workers.

De Guzman is also spokesperson for Paggawa.

"The Duterte regime is duty-bound to protect the welfare of the Filipino people, above all. It should sacrifice and share the burden for the sake of the people," BMP said.

De Guzman, who ran in the 2019 Senate election under the tagline "Manggagawa Naman" and a platform opposing contractualization and higher excise taxes from TRAIN, also pointed out that suspending the possible effects of tension in the Middle East coupled with added fuel taxes was of utmost importance because many Filipinos live in poverty.

In a year-end report of the Duterte administration published by the page of presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, it was reported that "the number of poor Filipinos declined faster than expected in the last three years."

"Poverty incidence, as per the Philippine Statistics Authority, dropped to 16.6% in 2019 from 23.3% in 2015. This means that 5.9 million Filipinos have been lifted out of poverty," Panelo wrote. 

However, the Philippine Statistics Authority defines the poverty line as "no less than P10,481, on average, [which] was needed to meet both basic food."

The World Bank, though, has listed $1.90 per day as its International Poverty Line since 2015. In 2019, that equated to around P96.45 per day in the Philippines or around P2893.50 a month and around P14,467.50 a month for a family of five.

In the same statement on Wednesday, Paggawa said that the administration often used faulty data to back up their claims. 

“The way we measure poverty is ridiculous, if not insulting. No serious official can defend the poverty threshold of Php 10,727 for a family of five, or Php 50 per person per day for food and P21 per person per day for non-food needs,” said lawyer Jimmy Miralles of labor group Association of Genuine Labor Organizations.

OFW protection

As tensions between the United States and Iran mount in the Middle East, BMP also called for government intervention in providing employment opportunities for the Filipino workers who could potentially be displaced. 

READ: Pinoys in Iraq told: Prepare for mandatory evacuation after US killing of Iranian commander

This came after US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of one of Iran's top commanders in an airstrike on an airport in Baghdad.

According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, there are 679 OFWs in Iran, although De Guzman expressed concern that there could be many more undocumented Filipinos in the region. 

BMP also pointed out that the neighboring nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Jordan and United Arab Emirates are top destinations for OFWs seeking employment. 

Filipinos residing in the area have been told to prepare for a mandatory evacuation.  

The Philippine Embassy may be contacted at (+964) 781-606-6822; (+964) 751-616-7838; and (+964) 751-876-4665 or via email:; and/or via Facebook page: Philippine Embassy in Iraq

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