PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

Members of the Makabayan bloc have called for a probe into the importation of agricultural products and the suspension of the excise fuel tax.

House Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos T. Zarate said in a virtual press briefing Friday that they are calling on government agencies to investigate the importation of agricultural products.

“Even if our producers are complaining, they still continue the importation. The ones who are affected are the local producers,” he said in Filipino. “That’s why we are urging the Office of the Ombudsman, and even through the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation, to look into this. We see this as economic sabotage.”

Meanwhile, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene D. Brosas said that the excise fuel tax should be suspended and that big oil companies should not overprice their products.

“The oil excise tax under the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law should be suspended and fuel subsidies should be distributed to provide relief to the people who are already badly affected by the pandemic,” she was quoted as saying in Filipino in statement.

“Big oil companies should moderate their greed. They are earning billions and billions in the midst of the pandemic because of the overpricing of P4-5 billion in the price of oil.”

Isko promises lower oil taxes

Meanwhile, Manila Mayor and presidential candidate Francisco “Isko Moreno” M. Domagoso said Friday that he will reduce the taxes on oil products if he wins the coming May elections.

“I’ve been telling you this about a month ago. That’s why I made a commitment to cut taxes on oil by 50% because when I said that, there’s a projection that we saw in the coming months that these things will happen,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino at a livestreamed press conference held in Pangasinan. “And I do believe these things will continue to happen. The increase of the price of oil.”

“Especially, I hope it won’t happen, with the situation in Russia and Ukraine… Let’s hope that the possible war between them won’t happen, because I am sure that the price of oil will continue to rise because we will have a problem in supply.

“And everyone will go to the Middle East. We’re one of the smaller customers of the Middle East. We will be the least priority, most likely.”

Mr. Domagoso said that his plan to reduce oil taxes by 50% was based on the forecast that the prices of crude oil, electricity, and basic needs will continue to rise. He added that because of the rising prices, the country needs to stop depending on imports and invest in farmers.

The standard-bearer of the Aksyon Demokratiko party noted that if the government does not relax its restrictions during the pandemic, businesses will shut down leading to unemployment.

“If we don’t recover from the pandemic and still don’t loosen the restrictions, businesses will continue to shut down and people will keep losing jobs. If there are still jobs available, the workers will not be paid enough,” he said. — Jaspearl Emerald G. Tan