Consumers demand cash aid, wage hike as more oil price increases loom

A network of consumers’ rights advocates demanded that government continue with the roll out of its promised aid to families severely affected by recent spikes in prices of goods and services.

The Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Konsyumer para sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan (SUKI Network) said their demand for cash assistance for affected families, transport workers, small businesses and producers are unchanged despite the rollback in oil prices this week.

The group also pressed the government to implement salary increases and reduce prices by scrapping oil excise taxes to help poor families recover from pandemic consumer woes.

SUKI Network is composed of organizations of poor sectors such as drivers, the urban poor, workers, farmers, small entrepreneurs, academics, church people, advocates of the right to food and basic needs, social services, public utilities, among others.

Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) officer Eufemia Doringo said such demands are just as they see further increases in prices of goods and services as another round of oil prices loom nest week.

“Transport workers with the Pinagkaisang Lakas ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) say they are far from recovered with the Php11.45/liter rollback. They have lost income from 11 consecutive weeks of oil price increases this year exceeding Php30.00,” Doringo said.

Doringo reported that in the urban poor community of Sitio San Roque, Barangay North Triangle, Quezon City, rice is being sold at Php35-36/kilo, pork bones at Php250-300/kilo, dried fish at Php10-20/piece, cabbage at Php50-80/piece and sugar at (Php53-Php70/kilo.

Consumer rights advocate Bantay Konsyumer, Kalsada at Kuryente (BKKK) also criticized increased electricity rates it said would impact so-called lifeline consumers.

BKKK convenor Prof. Louie Montemar said the government should consider using the Malampaya funds to subsidize electricity rates and offset the new Php0.0625 per kilowatt hour (kWh) increase, bringing rates to Php9.6467 per kWh.

Government shows lack of control

Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis meanwhile said that the rollback indicates price manipulation on the part of oil cartels.

“They easily announced a rollback after raking super-profits from the total several weeks’ hike of up to Php30.75 per liter in the price of diesel, up to20.50 for gasoline and PHp24.90 for kerosene,” Casilao explained.

The former legislator said the rise and fall in oil prices also shows government’s lack of control of the oil industry under the Oil Deregulation Law.

“As long as deregulation is in place, the nation and the public are at the mercy of giant oil companies’ opaque pricing schemes. The unbundling of the price of petroleum products in the recommended amendments to the deregulation law would be welcome,” Casilao said.

The SUKI network said it demands the unbundling of petroleum product prices, scrapping of the oil excise tax and Oil Deregulation Law, Php10,000 cash assistance for the 18 million poorest households, Php15,000 subsidy to producers, substantial support for small local businesses, and a Php750 national minimum wage.

Collect Marcoses’ unpaid taxes

The network said Duterte’s recent order to increase its monthly financial aid to the poorest Filipino families affected by oil price increases from Php200 to Php500 still only amounts to just Php16.67 per day.

It also cited figures from economic think tank IBON Foundation that the real value of the minimum wage has fallen from Php536.74 in 2016 to Php494.02 in February 2022.

According to IBON, the living wage is now at Php1,072 per day or Php25,252 per month for a family of five in the National Capital Region.”

“The argument that there aren’t funds for the people’s demands is worn and torn,” SUKI Network spokesperson Prof. Reginald Vallejos said.

“IBON has shown that if the Duterte government really wants to help its constituency, it can reallocate the trillions it budgeted for big-ticket infrastructure, debt servicing, and military and police modernization; recover tax cuts given to big corporations; and tax the bilionaires,” Vallejos said.

Kadamay’s Doringo added that the government must also decisively collect Php203 billion estate tax arrears of the heirs of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos as additional source of funds for its cash aid roll out.

“Instead of letting them go scott-free while tens of thousands of small businesses are forced to close due to lack of government support, the Marcoses should be obliged by government to face the law and pay up”, Doringo said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Public workers demand relief after ‘unbearable’ price hikes

Government employees are demanding for salary increases and economic relief in light of rising prices of oil and basic goods and services.

As the Duterte administration recently announced it is considering increasing national minimum wage of private sector workers, government workers also called for similar minimun pay increase and economic relief to cushion the impact of rising  prices of oil and basic commodities,” the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) said.

COURAGE president Santiago Dasmarinas said the purchasing power of public sector workers had already been severely eroded by inflation even before the pandemic.

“With the big increase in oil prices recently, which would surely result to price increases in basic commodities, government employees can no longer bear the economic hardships they are experiencing,” Dasmarinas said.

The group said that to mitigate the poor conditions of government workers, the government must:

* Raise the national minimum wage of government workers to P16,000 per month as proposed in House Bill (HB) 6362 filed by the Makabayan bloc in Congress;

* Provide for a monthly inflation adjustment allowance of P3,000 as proposed in HB 9922 by Makabayan;

* Implement an extended and expanded social amelioration package for  workers and the general public who are suffering more because of high inflation;

* Remove excise and value added taxes on oil products and impose price control measures; and

* Implement humane working arrangements and policies to alleviate workers’s conditions.

COURAGE said low salary-grade employees, local government workers, government-owned and controlled corporation workers, contract of service and job order workers, have been short-changed by the existing salary standardization law and the government’s compensation and position classification system that made them ill-prepared to deal with the inflation brought about by the pandemic and rising oil prices. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Suspending TRAIN oil taxes will lower oil prices and ease inflation—IBON

Supporting calls to suspend oil excise taxes, research group IBON said that this will go far in immediately easing the burden of rising prices on ordinary Filipinos. The group added that revenue losses can be compensated by similarly suspending recent corporate tax cuts.

IBON said that these measures can be the start not just of a more progressive tax system but also a prelude to better regulation and control over the country’s oil industry.

Amid tight supplies and later increasing demand, global oil prices have been generally rising since the pandemic started including for eight straight weeks now.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has cut production, the US is not releasing oil from its Strategic Reserve, and China instructed its energy companies to secure supplies for the coming winter.

From August 23 to October 15, the price per barrel of Dubai crude increased by US$15.95, Mean of Platts Singapore (MOPS) gasoline by US$19.05, and MOPS diesel by US$22.65.

Gasoline prices in this Pasig City fuel station has gone past P70/liter after last week’s oil price hike. (Photo by Pom Villanueva/Kodao)

The country is heavily reliant on oil imports so the global oil price hikes are causing domestic oil prices to follow suit. In just the past eight weeks, the price per liter of diesel hiked by Php8.70, gasoline by Php7.25, and kerosene by Php8.10.

This disproportionately burdens poor oil consumers and Filipino households, IBON said.

Just from the eight weeks of hikes, for instance, jeepney drivers have to pay Php95.70 more for 11 liters of diesel per day. Farmers have to pay Php1,653 more for 190 liters of diesel per hectare per cropping season.

Rising oil prices increases the prices of basic goods and services, IBON stressed, and fuels inflation. This is worst for the poorest 30% of the population for whom inflation is higher than the national average.

Inflation across many commodity groups is already much higher now than last year. Food inflation increased from 1.8% in the whole of 2020 to 5.4% in September 2021. Over that same period, inflation in housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels increased from 2% to 3.4%, and in clothing and footwear from 2.5% to 2.7 percent. Inflation in health, transport and education have fortunately moderated.

IBON said that suspending the oil excise taxes under Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) will provide immediate relief. This will lower the price per liter of diesel by Php6.72 and of gasoline by Php6.33.

It will also remove Php3 from the price per kilo of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), lowering the price of an 11-kilo tank by Php33 not including VAT.

The price per liter of diesel can go down from some Php46.33 to Php39.61, gasoline from some Php55.51 to Php49.18, and LPG from some Php968.90 to Php935.90.

IBON also said that oil revenue losses can be offset by also suspending corporate income tax (CIT) cuts under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act or CREATE.

The group noted that the government projects revenue losses of Php115.8 billion in 2021 and Php101.8 billion in 2022 from CREATE’s CIT cuts.

Reducing indirect consumption taxes such as on oil and increasing direct taxes on income makes the tax system more progressive, said IBON.

The group stressed that these immediate measures are doable and will help lower domestic oil prices and ease inflationary pressures, substantially mitigating the burden of global oil price hikes on the poorest.

Longer-term solutions should also start to be seriously considered, said IBON.

IBON stressed that more effective regulation and control of the oil industry is the only way to sustainably lower oil prices.

This can start by ensuring transparency in oil firms’ price-setting and active state intervention to prevent overpricing.

IBON pointed out that oil firms have had too much freedom to raise domestic oil prices opaquely and at will since the Oil Deregulation Law or Republic Act 8479, often changing pump prices by more than warranted by global oil price increases.

IBON also said that renationalization of oil firms such as Petron will increase the government’s capacity to intervene in the industry, with the strategic view of eventually nationalizing the majority of the oil industry. #

= = = =

Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content sharing agreement.