Senate bets say no to oil deregulation, fuel excise tax hike

MANILA, Philippines – Several senatorial candidates on Sunday, March 3, called for the suspension of the laws on oil deregulation and tax reform.

Seven of the 8 bets who joined the fourth installment of ABS-CBN's "Harapan 2019" forum blamed these laws for the continuing rise of fuel prices.

These include reelectionist Senator JV Ejercito, who voted in favor of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law in 2017. (READ: How 7 reelectionist senators voted on key issues, bills)

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the TRAIN law in December 2017, which sought to increase Filipinos' take-home pay, but imposed higher excise tax on fuel. Meanwhile, the oil deregulation law was signed in 1998 to encourage competition.

Below are the senatorial candidates' views on these two laws and rising fuel prices:

Ernesto Arellano

"Ang suspension ng TRAIN law [at] review ng oil deregulation ay makakatulong pero kinakailangan magbigay tayo ng major na framework para matugunan ito. Ako'y magmumungkahi na ilagay natin sa public ownership ang mga industries sa mga basic needs...para 'di na maging factor 'yung private profit para sa pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin."

(The suspension of the TRAIN law and the review of the oil deregulation law would help, but we also need to have a major framework to address this. I'm proposing that we put all industries that serve people's basic needs under public ownership so that profit would not be considered in raising the prices of goods.)

Toti Casiño

"Ang presyo ng langis pandaigdigan [ay] naglalaro kada taon. Mayroong panahong mataas ang presyo, pumapalo $100 kada bariles, minsan kalahati.... [Kailangan ng] oil strategic reserves [para] nakakapag-ipon tayo 'pag mababa presyo ng langis, nang sa gayon 'pag tumaas, mabebenta ng mura. Ang nangyari wala tayong gano'ng reserba."

(Oil prices worldwide really vary every year. There are times the price would reach $100 per barrel, sometimes just half of that. We need to have oil strategic reserves so we could stock up on oil while prices are still low. So that even when prices increase, we can still sell fuel at a cheaper price. We don't have that kind of reserve now.)

Leody de Guzman

"Mula isabatas ang oil deregulation law ay wala nang tigil ang pagtaas ng presyo ng krudo at gasolina…. Dapat i-review ang oil deregulation. Una siguro, TRAIN law dahil 'yung nagdagdag sa excise tax...then kung matibay-tibay ang Senado, dapat baligtarin oil deregulation law, dapat magkacontrol ang gobyerno."

(Since the passage of the oil deregulation law, there has been a continuous increase in the prices of crude oil and gasoline.... It should be reviewed. Maybe we should prioritize reviewing the TRAIN law because of the increase in excise tax.... And if the next Senate is strong, then we could overturn the oil deregulation law because the government should have control.)

JV Ejercito

"Bagamat kami'y bumoto d'yan dahil sa hiling ng ating Pangulo...meron naman proseso kung sa tingin namin na pagkakamali ito.... Dapat 'yung excise taxes 'di gaanong itaas para 'di maging pabigat.... Kung aamyendahan ay 'yun po ang aking amendment na ipo-propose."

(Even if we voted for that because of the wish of the President...there are processes we can do if we think it is a mistake.... The excise tax should not be so high that it would affect the public.... If the law will be amended, that would be my proposal.)

Elmer Francisco

"Unang-una, kailangan itigil ang excise tax ng krudo dahil hindi dapat pinag-eeksperimentuhan ng Senado ang ating mga mamamayan.... Bukod diyan, may alternatibo tulad ng biodiesel.... Bukod po diyan, meron tayong program ng boundary, hulog, para 'di maapektuhan kinikita. Makakabili pa ng bagong sasakyan na 'di nababawasan ang kasalukuyang kita at mas matipid pa ang mga bagong jeepney."

(First of all, we need to stop the excise tax on oil because it's not right for the Senate to experiment on our people.... Not only that, we have an alternative like biodiesel.... Aside from that, we also have a program for installment payment for boundary so that their income would not be affected. They could buy new vehicles, without losing income. These vehicles are more efficient.)

RJ Javellana

"'Pag ako'y naging senador, tatanggalin natin ang oil deregulation law…. Tatanggalin natin ang petroleum excise tax sa ilalim ng TRAIN law.... Ibabalik 'yung Oil Price Stabilization Fund na tinanggal pagkatapos nung EDSA coup d'etat."

(If I become a senator, I will push for the repeal of the oil deregulation law.... We will remove the petroleum excise tax imposed under the TRAIN law.... We should again implement the Oil Price Stabilization Fund which was removed after the EDSA coup d'etat.)

Dado Padilla

"Dapat po talaga mareview ang TRAIN law dahil ang naapektuhan dito talagang mahihirap." (The TRAIN law must be reviewed because it affects the poor.)

Dan Roleda

"Ang problema sa presyo ng langis ay dinidiktahan ng law of supply and demand, pandaigdigan…. Ito'y isang realidad na dapat tanggapin. Pero bilang isang pamahalaan, kailangan ng gobyerno pumasok at magkaroon ng intervention. Halimbawa, 'yung sa TRAIN law, 'wag muna iimplement at bigyan ng subsidy."

(The problem with oil prices is that they are dictated by the law of supply and demand worldwide. This is a reality we need to accept. But the government should intervene. For example, in the case of the TRAIN law, they should first stop its implementation and give subsidies.)

– Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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