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Senate to fast-track bills freezing fuel tax after House passage

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THE SENATE ways and means committee will act immediately on measures calling for the suspension of fuel excise tax under the tax reform law once it is transmitted to the chamber, its chairman Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said on Thursday.

“I am confident that if they passed it in the House, it will also be passed in the Senate. Every measure on taxes must come from the House… so once they pass it, I’m sure there will be fast action in the Senate and in the committee,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the 2019 proposed budget deliberations.

“We will act on it immediately,” he added.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday debated bills and resolutions seeking to suspend the scheduled increase of fuel excise tax, a day after Malacañang decided to go ahead with the tax hike.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, is recommending a three-month suspension of the fuel excise tax to help the poorest Filipinos recover from high prices this year, despite the lower inflation in November.

“(The 6% November inflation) is still heavy for the poor. One of our recommendations is to suspend (the fuel excise tax) for three months because even though inflation slowed down, it is still high for the poorest Filipinos, the bottom 30%,” he told reporters.

Both senators have also urged government to fully implement the social mitigating measures under the tax reform law. They said not all of the beneficiaries have received benefits from the unconditional cash transfer program and Pantawid Pasada program that the tax reform law provides.

Senator Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV said the Senate could take up the Bawas Presyo sa Petrolyo bill and the resolution filed by minority senators calling for the fuel excise tax hike suspension.

The Bawas Presyo Bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law that will provide an automatic suspension of fuel excise tax when inflation exceeds the government’s targets.

“Hopefully, the Senate can follow suit and tackle these crucial measures before the end of the year,” Mr. Aquino said in a statement.

The TRAIN law imposes an excise taxes on gasoline and diesel to P7 per liter and P2.50 per liter, respectively, in 2018. Starting January 1, 2019, gasoline excise tax will go up to P9 while diesel will increase to P4.50.

The law also provides a suspension provision on the scheduled increase of fuel excise taxes if the average Dubai crude oil price for three months prior to the scheduled increase reaches or exceeds $80 per barrel. — Camille A. Aguinaldo