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House panel hears bills calling for fuel tax hike suspension

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PHILSTAR

THE House Committee on Ways and Means on Wednesday began deliberating bills and resolutions seeking to suspend the increase of the excise taxes on fuel.

“While the President has basis for his decision to go ahead with the second tranche (of excise tax increases) we should always consider the impact on consumers,” Committee Chair Estrellita B. Suansing of the 1st district of Nueva Ecija told reporters following the committee meeting.

“If you ask me, they have to reconsider,” she said.

The Committee meeting comes after President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his Cabinet decided to approve the P2 increase in the excise tax on fuel scheduled for 2019.

The higher taxes were authorized by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which provided for a P2.5 per liter increase in oil excise tax in 2018, P2 in 2019 and P1.5 in 2020.

The committee was considering House Bill No. 8171, House Joint Resolutions No. 27, 29 and 31, and House Resolutions 1838, 1919, 2253, all proposing to suspend the second tranche of the excise tax hike.

Marikina-2nd district Rep. Romero S. Quimbo, who wrote HB 8171, proposed to suspend increase of excise taxes on kerosene and diesel.

“Kerosene today in terms of total collection from January to September is P257.2 million. Yet based on the experts, it’s really a fuel used by the poor… They pay for it, the impact on them is catastrophic and yet the amount that we collect is not even 300 million,” Mr. Quimbo said before the committee.

Mr. Quimbo had raised the need to reassess the provisions of the TRAIN Law, considering that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) have exceeded their target collections for the year.

“We’ve exceeded the target and it’s not even the end of year… I think it becomes even more pressing for us to re-evaluate,” he said.

According to the Department of Finance (DoF), as of October, the BIR has collected P31.7 billion, while the BoC, as of September, collected P31.2 billion, higher than their full-year targets of P29.7 billion and P24 billion, respectively.

The DoF, for its part, wants to proceed with the scheduled excise tax increase.

“If we suspend, this deprives the budget immediately for 2019. For example, if we do not impose the P2 that is mandated under the law, this will deprive the budget of P40 billion for the whole year,” Assistant Secretary Teresa S. Habitan told the committee. — Charmaine A. Tadalan