Filipinos to feel impact of higher fuel tax starting mid-January

MANILA, Philippines – Starting mid-January, Filipinos are expected to feel the impact of higher fuel excise tax rates at gasoline pumps.

For now, the Department of Energy (DOE) said in a statement that the additional excise tax on fuel under the newly-enacted Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law should not affect the costs of oil companies' old or existing stocks, including those under the 15-day minimum inventory requirement.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi assured the public that his department is keeping a close watch over oil firms to prevent possible profiteering over the implementation of TRAIN, which took effect last Monday, January 1. (READ: Higher fuel prices in 2018? Fill your tanks now, says Andanar)

"As directed by President [Rodrigo] Duterte, the government taxes should not profit the companies, because these are all intended for the services of the government to the public and the public alone," Cusi said in a statement.

He added that the oil firms "willingly agreed" to submit their stock inventories under a notarized document to be submitted to the energy department. (READ: Filipinos to welcome 2018 with new withholding tax rates)

The energy chief said the oil companies also agreed to require their retailers to post what products would be charged with excise tax and when it would be implemented.

Oil companies gearing up

According to Phoenix Petroleum vice president for external affairs Raymond Zorrilla, his firm will "maintain" prices for "at least 15 days."

PTT Philippines general manager Danilo Alabado, meanwhile, said his company is still "in the process of accounting" oil inventory and projections to determine until when existing stocks will last.

As for Pilipinas Shell, company spokesperson Cesar Abaricia said they have yet to receive advisories from retailers on current inventory levels.

"If you are asking about the stocks in the retail stations, we are still checking it from our retail group," the Shell official added.

Cusi said the DOE would conduct a random audit and monitoring activities in compliance with TRAIN, both in the depot or refinery level and in the retail level or gasoline stations. 

Energy Undersecretary Felix Fuentebella said the following rate hikes are seen once old stocks are consumed:

Adjustments in prices of petroleum products are implemented every Tuesday.

For value added tax, the new rates under TRAIN that are applicable to consumers started last Monday.

For kerosene and household LPG, the DOE reiterated that a price freeze should be observed in calamity-hit areas. – with reports from Chrisee Dela Paz / Rappler.com