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Industry leaders ask candidates to ease off on plans to cut excise taxes

By Russell Louis C. Ku

BUSINESS groups have called on politicians and candidates running for President to consider the potential damage to the government’s ability to finance its pandemic containment measures should they go forward with plans to suspend the excise tax on fuel.

They said in a statement Friday that more targeted measures such as subsidies to the transport sector are preferrable, in order to help transport workers earn income without raising fares.

Such an approach would involve more cash transfers such as a new Social Amelioration Program as well as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program run by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) account for only around 30% of total diesel consumption. Therefore, most of the benefit of a blanket suspension would go to people who don’t operate or use PUVs, as well as other oil consumers,” they said.

They added that government revenue from excise tax is needed to help support public services for lower-income and vulnerable citizens and to stimulate an economic recovery through job creation.

House legislators have filed bills seeking to lower the excise tax to address rising fuel prices.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson and former Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who are running for President, both expressed support for a suspension of excise taxes on fuel products, while another candidate, Manila Mayor Francisco M. Domagoso, said he will seek a 50% reduction in taxes on oil if elected President.

The Department of Finance has warned that the suspension of excise tax would force the government to forego as much as P131.4 billion in revenue next year, possibly hindering the economic recovery.

On Tuesday oil companies raised the price of gasoline by P1.15 per liter while diesel and kerosene prices fell P0.35 and P0.30 respectively.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said the rise in fuel prices is due to the sudden increase in global demand due surging economic activity, a production slowdown in exporting countries, stockpiling ahead of winter, and international sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.

As of Nov. 2, pump prices in the year to date for gasoline and diesel have increased by P21.95 per liter and P18.10 per liter respectively, according to the Energy department.

Business groups signing on to the statement were the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, the Foundation for Economic Freedom, GoNegosyo, the Investment Houses Association of the Philippines, the Makati Business Club, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Philippine Retailers Association, and the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association.

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