Don’t wait for $100 per barrel oil price – lawmaker

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Donât wait for $100 per barrel oil price â lawmaker
Jeepney driver Marlito Reyes, 57, counts coins to pay for fuel at a gasoline station along Rizal Avenue in Manila yesterday, as fuel companies implemented another round of price increases.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The government should not wait for the cost of crude oil to hit $100 per barrel in the world market before rescuing the public from soaring fuel prices, a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives said yesterday.

“Let us not wait for crude and domestic prices to hit $100 per barrel and P100 per liter, let us not wait for a mass outcry from our people before we give them relief from sky-high fuel prices by suspending oil taxes,” said 1Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero.

Romero was referring to a provision of the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion Law (RA 10963) – “which is no longer in effect” now – that should have provided for a suspension of the increase in excise taxes on oil products as soon as world crude oil reaches $80 per barrel.

“This means that taxes should now be suspended because the cost of crude has soared to more than $90 per barrel, at least $10 beyond the threshold under Section 43 (of the TRAIN Law),” he said.

While expressing gratitude over Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez’s openness to suspend excise taxes in such circumstances, the deputy speaker lamented that he “was apparently unaware that the provision of the law he referred to, which is Section 43, is no longer in effect.”

He said Section 43 provided for the suspension of the increase in excise taxes on oil products only for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 whenever the cost of crude in the world market hit $80 per barrel.

Romero reminded the Department of Finance (DOF) that it had accepted a three-year moratorium (2018 to 2020) on higher excise taxes on oil products under the TRAIN Law, which took effect in January 2018.

He nevertheless appealed to the DOF to give way to the proposed suspension of oil taxes, which he said would cut fuel prices by P6 per liter for diesel, P10 for gasoline and P33 per 11-kilogram cylinder for cooking gas.

“As lawyers would say, the finance department is estopped from blocking the proposed excise tax suspension,” Romero, president of the 54-member Party-list Coalition Foundation in the House, said.

Romero warned the DOF that the decision of many countries to reopen their economies despite the pandemic and tensions between Russia and Ukraine and its allies would further put upward pressure on the cost of crude.

Earlier, Romero urged President Duterte to consider calling Congress to a special session so it could pass a bill reviving Section 43 of the TRAIN Law.

No to new taxes

For senatorial aspirant and Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero, the government should not resort to imposing new taxes to pay for the Philippines’ burgeoning debt as proposed by the DOF.

“It’s true that the government needs increased revenue but I do not believe this is the right time to impose new taxes or tax hikes because we are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic.

Filipinos are only just beginning to regain their health and livelihoods – will the government make recovery harder for us than it already is?” Escudero said. – Paolo Romero



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