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Senate panel urges govt to shelve fuel excise taxes

THE Senate Committee on Public Services has urged the finance department to suspend the imposition of excise taxes on fuel under the tax reform package, amid the rising prices of basic commodities.

This was the initial recommendation of the committee led by Sen. Grace Poe after it conducted a public hearing on the effects of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Law, particularly on utilities and transportation, in Iloilo City on Friday.

“We are requesting the Department of Finance (DoF) and other government agencies to seriously study the suspension of excise tax on fuel because of the relentless increase in the prices of oil products,” Poe said in her closing statement after the hearing.

During the hearing, members of the public services committee were told that pump prices in Panay region have increased by 30 percent or at least P10 for diesel and gasoline since December last year.

The region also registered price spikes in rice at P5 per kilo, pork at P15 per kilo and fish at P20 per kilo.

Consumer groups also told senators that the effects of TRAIN Law were being aggravated by increasing fuel costs.

Poe said she would ask her colleagues to support the proposal for fuel excise tax suspension.

Since the Train Law’s implementation in January this year, average price increases have reached P8.07 per liter for gasoline, P8.95 for diesel and P9.15 per liter of kerosene.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said protection must be given to consumers bearing the brunt of high prices.

Ejercito recalled that the Senate version of the Train law called for a safeguard that would have suspended the imposition of excise taxes if inflation breached 4 percent.

“This safeguard, however, was taken out in the bicameral conference committee version,” said Ejercito.

Opposition Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th said the government should act immediately and roll back the excise taxes on petroleum products.

Aquino made the statement in response to the clarification of the Department of Energy that the Train Law allows the immediate suspension of excise taxes on petroleum products in 2019.

“Will the government wait for 2019 before acting on it? Our countrymen are already drowning in the high prices of commodities, let us not wait for prices to increase further,” Aquino pointed out.

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