P200 ayuda not enough, some VP bets bat for suspension of fuel excise tax

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2022 11:39 PM

MANILA — The P200 aid to be given to poor families to help them cope with high fuel prices is not enough, several Vice Presidential candidates said on Sunday during the debate sponsored by the Commission on Elections. 

Some of the candidates said the government should also suspend the fuel excise taxes.

"Kaagad-agad mararamdaman ng ating mga kababayan yan (That will be immediately felt by our countrymen)," said Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

Pangilinan said the government should also quickly distribute the P500 million fuel subsidy for farmers and fisherfolk, the P2.5 billion subsidy for the transport sector, and P6 billion unprogrammed fuel subsidy.

"Kapag ang gobyerno ay mabilis kumilos, kapag ang gobyerno ay hindi natutulog, ika nga, at araw-araw binubusisi at tinitiyak na mare-release ito, makakatulong nang malaki ‘yan," he said. 

(When the government acts quickly when the government is not sleeping, that is, and is investigating every day and making sure it is released, that will help a lot.)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also agreed that fuel excise taxes should be deferred, but added that the minimum wage in the National Capital Region should be raised to P1,000 per day, and P600 to P800 in regions.

Sotto also proposed to give tax breaks to employers despite this resulting in lower revenue collection.

"Di baleng gobyerno ang maghirap, huwag lang ang taumbayan. Sanay mangutang ang gobyerno eh pero ‘yung kababayan natin papatol sa 5-6 eh para lang may makain di ba o para lang may madagdag sa negosyo nila," he said.

(It's ok for the government to suffer, not the people. The government is used to borrowing, but our countrymen will rely on the 5-6 schemes just to have something to eat or just to add to their business.)

He also suggested a shift to renewable energy. 

Walden Bello also panned the proposed P200 ayuda. 

"Talagang parang binibiro lang tayo ni Pres. Duterte with that (It really seems like Pres. Duterte was joking with us with that)," Bello said. 

He added that aside from excise taxes, the VAT on oil should also be suspended, as well as the country's payment for its non-securitized foreign debt.

Rizalito David also agreed that the P200 ayuda was not enough, and that fuel excise taxes should be suspended. But beyond this, the government should also extend aid to small businesses. 

"Kailangan talaga nating buhayin ‘yung ekonomiya, buhusan ng pera ‘yang maliliit na negosyo para dumami ang kabuhayan at bumalik na tayo sa dati nating level na pamumuhay," he said.

(We really need to revive the economy, invest in small businesses to increase our livelihood, and return to our previous standard of living.)

For his part, Dr. Willie Ong said that we should still look back into resolving the COVID-19 pandemic and the resolution to the economic crisis will follow.

"Balik tayo sa problema, kailangang malutas ang pandemic para malutas natin ang ekonomiya," he said.

(Let’s go back to the problem, the pandemic needs to be solved for us to solve the economy.)

Carlos Serapio proposed to give "energy relief" to households, which would enable them to produce their own electricity. Serapio was not able to elaborate on this. 

Manny Lopez was the lone candidate who did not agree with suspending fuel excise taxes, saying this would lead to a "fiscal crisis."

He instead proposed that the government use "moral suasion" to convince oil firms to keep prices steady, saying oil price hikes were mostly due to "speculation." 

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