Senate hopefuls eye fuel tax suspension to tame inflation

Jauhn Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 17 2019 08:58 PM | Updated as of Feb 18 2019 09:33 AM

MANILA – Some senatorial candidates on Sunday called for a review of tax reform, as they blamed higher duties on fuel for quickening inflation.

During "Harapan 2019: The ABS-CBN Senatorial Town Hall Debate" 9 Senatorial aspirants were asked what they would do to address inflation, which reached near 10-year highs in 2018, the first year of higher excise taxes on petroleum products.

Civil society leader Samira Gutoc said the excise tax on fuels should be reviewed or even suspended.

"Bakit ba naman tayo naglagay ng taxation on gasoline? Domino effect 'yan especially sa probinsiya na kulang sa trabaho," said Gutoc.

(Why are we taxing gasoline? There will be a domino effect, especially in the provinces where there are few jobs.)

Reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino, who sponsored a measure seeking to stop further increases in fuel excise taxes, said he was one of 4 senators who voted against TRAIN.

The TRAIN law scheduled excise tax increases every year for 3 years starting Jan. 1, 2018, when duties were increased by P2.50 per liter for diesel, P1 per kilo of LPG, and P2.65 per liter of regular and unleaded gasoline.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay said lawmakers "failed" in its duty when it passed the TRAIN law as the 1987 Constitution mandates a "progressive system of taxation."

"Ang progressive system of taxation ay dapat ayon sa kakayanan ng mamamayan... Hindi nagampanan ng gobyerno ang tungkulin nila," he said.

(A progressive taxation system is based on the people's capacity to pay. The government failed in that respect.)

Jiggy Manicad, a former broadcast journalist, said excise taxes on fuels should not have been included in the TRAIN law since price hikes would affect the poor the most.

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno called the fuel excise taxes "unjustifiable."

Inflation slowed to 4.4 percent in January, moving closer to the government's 2 to 4 percent target, after hovering at near 10-year highs in 2018.