Senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares presented five proposals to mitigate effects of rising oil prices he blames not just on the crisis in Eastern Europe but on government’s high taxes on petroleum products.
Colmenares, chairperson of the Makabayan block of progressive parties, said they have long proposed the five measures in response to the oil crisis that are likely to very soon affect prices of essential goods as well.
Colmenares said the first proposal is for the immediate repeal of the value added tax (VAT) and excise tax imposed on fuel that would result to an average relief of P27 per liter.
“We have done away with the VAT on water supplied by Manila Water and Maynilad; we must follow suit with fuel,” he said.
The second proposal is to unbundle oil prices, Colmenares said, that would provide for transparency in the pricing of petroleum products by the oil companies.
“By seeing where every peso spent per litter goes, we can easily check for overpricing and market abuse. This proposal is contained in House Bill No. 10386,” he added.
The senatorial candidate said the next three proposals are:
• The repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law and enactment of a new policy framework to ensure that oil prices are within reasonable costs and regulated, as contained in House Bill No. 4711;
• The buy-back of Petron to provide the public with a state-owned alternative to acquire oil and petroleum products, as contained in House Bill No. 244. Ramon Ang has already expressed willingness to sell Petron; thus, the Government must take on this offer and seek a just take-over of the company;
• The establishment of a National Petroleum Exchange Corporation to serve as the central import and distribution hub of oil and petroleum products, ensuring lower prices through economies of scale and helping oversee oil prices in the market, as contained in House Bill No. 4712.
Colmenares’ proposals came after prices increased for the 10th straight week last Tuesday by at least P3 per liter on gasoline and nearly P6 per liter on diesel, bringing prices to about P80 and P60 per liter, respectively.
The recent hikes in oil prices are the highest in more than a decade, pushing transport groups to hold protest rallies calling on the government to stop the increases.
Earlier, energy secretary Alfonso Cusi warned that gasoline prices may reach to about P100 per liter if the conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation is not immediately resolved.
Colmenares said the Philippine government does not have its hands tied in dealing with rising fuel costs and must act with urgency to cushion the country from the crisis.
“We can overcome this crisis if the government would stop imposing burdensome taxes and implement enough regulation on the oil industry,” Colmenares said Filipino.
No reason to hike prices yet
Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) said in a separate statement that oil companies have no reason to increase prices as a result of the conflict in Eastern Europe.
“The current automatic price adjustments under deregulation are unjust because these are driven by market speculation and because the current inventory of the big oil companies were purchased at a much lower price yet will be sold at a much higher price,” BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes said.
Reyes also criticizd the refusal of the oil companies to make a full disclosure of their pricing mechanisms.
“The pricing by the oil cartel is untransparent because oil companies refuse to unbundle the price components of their products,” he said.
Reyes added is is unjust that government profits from the people’s misery brought about by high taxes on the already overpriced oil products, including a 12% VAT and excise taxes.
Reyes said that BAYAN’s demands the removal or suspension on huge taxes on oil products such as the excise tax and VAT as well as the imposition of strict regulations on the industry “in light of market speculation, overpricing and utter lack of transparency in pricing.”
“The people can no longer bear the oppression by government and the oil companies. The government should act now to lower oil prices or face more protests from the people,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)