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Senate bill sets $80 Dubai crude as trigger to freeze fuel excise tax

A BILL calling for the automatic suspension of value-added tax (VAT) and excise taxes on fuel products has been refiled in the Senate, setting as a trigger event the Dubai crude oil benchmark exceeding $80 per barrel.

The trigger for Dubai prices will be the Singapore Mean of Platts reference, which sets the benchmark for Asian fuel prices.

The bill, a reconciled version of Senate Bill (SB) 2320 and 2445 which were filed in the 18th Congress but remained pending in the Senate committee after that Congress ended, is among the 10 priority bills Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III filed on Monday.

The senator did not include a provision in SB 2320 that allows the President, through an executive order (EO), to lower the rate or suspend the VAT tax on oil products during national emergencies or states of calamity for one year.

Senator Maria Imelda Josefa Remedios R. Marcos filed a separate bill allowing the suspension by EO, also on Monday.

The main targets for amendment contemplated in the bills are Sections 106, 107 and 148 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.

A suspension of the excise tax on fuel products is unlikely under the new government, which was sworn in last week, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno has said.

He added that reversing such a suspension would be “very difficult.”

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has said that he will seek other options to address spiraling fuel costs, noting that a suspension of excise taxes will lower government drastically.

The Finance department has said that a suspension may result in as much as P131.4 billion in foregone revenue in 2022, the loss of which will potentially hinder the economic recovery.

Mr. Pimentel also proposed a measure abolishing the travel tax on Filipinos and nationals of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) traveling to other ASEAN countries.

Meanwhile, Ms. Marcos listed among her priority bills measures calling for the emancipation of tenants, a New Omnibus Election Code, and a Young Farmers Challenge Act, the Pandemic Protection Act.

She also proposed a bill exempting migrant workers from paying PhilHealth premiums.

Senator Lorna Regina B. Legarda’s priorities included a measure supplying public school students at all levels with tablet computers.

Senate Bill 1 is known as the proposed One Tablet, One Student Act. A version was filed in the 18th Congress but had not got past committee level when that Congress ended.

She also proposed a Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, a Magna Carta for Private School Teachers, and a measure raising the salaries of public school teachers and personnel.

Senator Jose P. Estrada, Jr. listed among his priorities a measure amending the Labor Code to appoint the Secretary of Trade as vice-chairman of the National Wages and Productivity Commission. The amendment is intended to guide the commission on business and investment conditions before any wage action is undertaken.

He also refiled a bill transitioning informal workers into the formal economy and proposed a measure condoning penalties on household employers failing to pay social security benefits.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara filed the proposed Exports and Investments Development Act, which seeks to develop higher-value and diversified export products.

Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva said his focus was on “job opportunities and job security” with a view towards reducing poverty, he said in a statement.

He proposed to institutionalize the National Employment Recovery Strategy as the blueprint for job creation, and the Security of Tenure Act for workers in the private sector. The latter was also filed by Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel.

Ms. Hontiveros also filed the proposed Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reservation Act which declares a portion of the Philippine Rise (international name: Benham Rise) as a protected area, prohibiting the destruction of wildlife therein, and lays down a conservation and management regime.

Senator Manuel M. Lapid proposed measures calling for a monthly social pension for indigent persons with disabilities, the waiving of fees for professional examinations, and a requirement for tourism professionals to take a qualifying examination. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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