To help address the adverse effects of the continuing oil price hikes in the country, especially to vulnerable sectors like public transport, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is looking to file a bill to institutionalize the government’s “Pantawid Pasada” program.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and a re-electionist, said that the program — if institutionalized — is more economically viable than suspending the fuel excise tax, which the Department of Finance earlier rejected.
“This is a tried and tested program already. We have done it in the past, in many of the aberrations in world oil prices,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
The government would only spend Php 1.9-billion if it would issue fuel cards to beneficiaries under the Pantawid Pasada Program, data from Gatchalian’s office showed. Suspending fuel excise taxes, meanwhile, would forego revenues of Php 271.24 billion.
Gatchalian added that e-wallets for fuel subsidies must be provided to ensure timely remittance to targeted beneficiaries.
Under Republic Act 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, collections of fuel excise should be suspended only when the average price of Global crude reaches $80 per barrel for three months.
Meanwhile, former Defense Sec. Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro – another senatorial bet – is in favor of lowering fuel excise tax instead of fully suspending it as a “difficult balancing act” to immediately help consumers.
The adjustments, he said, would immediately help in easing the impact of high oil prices, which not only affect motorists, but could also trigger higher inflation.
Teodoro and Gatchalian are in the slate of presidential candidate former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. Gatchalian is also in the line-up of Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who is likewise seeking the presidency.
Pacquiao and fellow presidentiable Sen. Panfilo Lacson have both expressed their support to suspending the collection of fuel excise taxes to help motorists and other members of the transportation sector.
Another presidential bet, Vice President Leni Robredo, said that the continuous increase of oil prices calls for the review of pricing structures and value-added tax regulations on fuel products. She added that the system needs to be fixed to ensure that local oil prices are insulated from surges in world prices.
As of Thursday afternoon, Manila time, the price of Brent crude futures jumped to $102.44 (around Php5,200) per barrel in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is the first time since 2014 that global oil prices exceeded the $100/barrel level.
Locally, oil prices increased by as much as Php0.80 per liter, also on Tuesday. This was the eighth straight week of pump price hikes for the year.