President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said he is leaving it to Congress to decide on whether or not it will amend, suspend or modify the TRAIN Law, which raised excise taxes on fuel, levies on sweetened beverages and lowered some personal income taxes.
"Well the law was enacted by Congress. I leave it to Congress to decide whether or not to amend, suspend or modify the law. Leave it to Congress," he said in a press briefing before his official visit to South Korea.
He pointed out that he cannot do anything if lawmakers decide to modify or keep the law amid government's massive $180 billion infrastructure building plan.
TRAIN is the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law, which took effect in January and saw excise taxes raised on fuels, levies on sweetened beverages and lowered some personal income taxes, among other measures.
The government has defended the imposition of higher excise tax on fuel, saying it only accounts for a fraction of the overall price of petroleum.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno has rejected the suspension of tax reforms midway since revenues from the new duties help fund government programs.
Higher duties on fuel are also not entirely to blame for rising pump prices, he said. "I think we should be less of a crybaby. We are not going to keep this money in the treasury. We are going to benefit from this. It is for the poor," he said.
Inflation reached 4.5 percent in April, fanning calls for the government to at least roll back additional duties on petroleum products.
The tax reform law provides for the suspension of future increases in excise taxes on fuel if the price of Dubai crude reaches $80 per barrel. With Reuters