MANILA (UPDATE )— President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a P200 monthly subsidy for poor Filipino families as an alternative to suspending fuel excise taxes amid skyrocketing oil prices, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
The Department of Finance on Tuesday recommended a P33.1 billion subsidy for the "bottom 50 percent of all Filipino households," instead of suspending fuel taxes, which it said would "benefit more the people who have cars and the other richer people."
"Inaprubahan ng Pangulo ang dalawang rekomendasyon ng Department of Finance o DOF kaugnay sa pagtaas ng fuel prices. Una, ang pag-retain ng fuel excise taxes... At pangalawa, ang pagbibigay ng targeted subsidies," said acting Palace spokesman and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
(The President approved the two recommendations of the Department of Finance related to rising fuel prices. First, retaining fuel excise taxes.... And second, the distribution of targeted subsidies.)
A moratorium on fuel excise taxes imposed by the TRAIN Law would "reduce government revenues by P105.9 billion" and affect funds for social programs, Andanar said in a press briefing.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier said some 12 million poor households will benefit from the monthly subsidy.
Authorities are finalizing when to distribute the P200 monthly subsidy, Andanar said. The Department of Budget and Management will release guidelines on this, he added.
A budget circular will indicate whether the social welfare department or local governments will distribute the aid. The agency has a list of possible beneficiaries which government used for pandemic cash assistance, Andanar said.
Oil companies on Tuesday increased the price of diesel by as much as P13.15 per liter and gasoline by P7.10 per liter.
Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes said the P200 monthly subsidy would not be enough for basic commodities.
"So out of touch are Duterte and his economic managers that they think giving people P200 a month will assuage the burdens they face everyday," Reyes said in a Facebook post.
Sen. Grace Poe described the cash aid as a "pittance," saying the daily P6.66 it amounted to would not be enough for jeepney fare.
Poe said she hoped government would reconsider the suspension of fuel excise taxes.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan shared this sentiment.
"Bababa ang presyo ng produktong petrolyo, mas marami ang makikinabang, makakagaan ito nang kaunti sa araw-araw na paghihirap ng ating mga kababayan," he said.
(Pump prices will go down, more people will benefit from this and would somehow ease the daily suffering of our compatriots.)
In an interview on the sideline of his visit to Sarangani, Sen. Manny Pacquiao pointed out that P200 a month is not enough, adding that the government should give more if it can.
"Kung yan lang ang kaya ng gobyerno, eh bakit hindi? Pero kung may pondo naman ang gobyerno, bakit hind lakihan?" said the presidential aspirant.
(If that is only what the government can give, then why not? But if the government has enough funds, then why not give more?)
The government stands to lose some P138.8 billion in revenues this year alone if fuel taxes are waived, the DOF said.
The agency also noted that higher income households accounted for nearly 49 percent of fuel consumption, while lower-income families accounted for only 13.8 percent.
- with a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News