Bong Go

Bong Go: Gov’t should strengthen measures to address price hike

March 11, 2022 People's Journal 504 views

AS the Russia-Ukraine conflict drives up oil prices across the globe, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said he will support proposals for a temporary moratorium on the collection of excise taxes on oil products to help the Filipinos cope with the economic shocks.

In an interview after his visit to fire victims in Manila City on Wednesday, March 9, Go emphasized that protecting vulnerable consumers should be the number one priority. He, however, acknowledged concerns over the possible impact on the government’s revenue collections.

“Kung ako, personally, siyempre dahil talagang apektado ang mahihirap ngayon. Pero ang tanong diyan, papayag ba ‘yung finance managers natin dahil mayroon na silang projection for this year para sa collection nila? In the meantime dahil hindi pa stable ang presyo ng langis, pwedeng i-suspend muna natin (ang excise tax)… I will vote for it,” assured Go.

The lawmaker added that he would welcome a special session to tackle such legislative measures now that Congress is in session break. He mentioned possible solutions, such as introducing a moratorium or providing an extra budget for targeted support to vulnerable workers particularly in the transportation sector.

He also called on the administration to fast-track the release of the subsidy allotted to jeepney drivers, many of whom recently returned to pre-COVID operations in Alert Level 1 areas.

On Thursday, the Department of Budget and Management released a total of P2.5 billion to the transportation department as fuel subsidy for around 377,000 qualified public utility vehicle drivers. Another half billion pesos was also released to the agriculture department to subsidize transport fuel cost of farmers and fisherfolks to mitigate possible increase in food prices.

“Apektado rito ‘yung mahihirap… Bawat piso, bawat sentimo napakahalaga sa mga kababayan natin. Bawat pagtaas ng mga gasolina at krudo, apektado ‘yung mga tsuper, mga jeepney at itong mga public utility vehicle drivers,” remarked Go.

“Kung ano yung solusyon na pwedeng gawin ng executive, kung i-suspinde muna (ang excise tax) o magbigay ng ayuda, susuportahan ko. I think mayroon yata silang inilaang ayuda para sa mga jeepney transport groups… I am willing kung kailangan magkaroon ng panibagong batas para magkaroon ng budget para matulungan ang mga tsuper at mga apektado,” he added.

The lawmaker disclosed that President Rodrigo Duterte had already issued specific instructions to concerned agencies to address the rising oil prices, including the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Energy, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Finance, and Department of National Defense.

Go further revealed that the President had also directed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to prepare the necessary issuances in this regard.

“Inatasan niya si (Executive) Secretary Medialdea and (the concerned agencies) to check the prices para hindi masyado tumaas … Secretary Carlos Dominguez of Finance and even the Department of Defense ay inihanda na niya kung lumala itong giyera at apektado ang ating bansa,” he said.

Meanwhile, Go stressed the need to further study the calls to declare a state of economic emergency amid the soaring prices of petroleum products. He maintained that legislators will help work alongside concerned executive agencies to exhaust all options to combat the oil price hike and ensure it does not further compound the adverse economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hindi ko masagot sa ngayon (kung inclined ang Presidente). Pinag-aaralan pa ng Executive Department kung aabot sa ganoong sitwasyon. Ako naman, bilang inyong senador… we are very much willing to sit down to address itong fuel hike,” Go said.

“Nung nag-usap si Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte at some of his cabinet members, pinapa-address na niya ito. Kung kakailanganin ng session o nang batas, willing kami. I cannot speak on behalf of the whole body pero ako willing ako,” he continued.

In the meantime, Go called on oil companies and traders to do their part to help the country emerge from the ongoing crises. He urged them to avoid taking undue advantage by unnecessarily jacking up prices for profits.

On March 8, oil companies announced their biggest jump yet in pump prices of petroleum products at PhP5.85 per liter of diesel, PhP4.10 for kerosene, and PhP3.60 for gasoline.

“Ito ‘yung panahon na dapat walang nananamantala. Naghihirap nga tayo. Mayroon pa tayong krisis sa COVID-19, mayroon pa tayong krisis sa pagtaas ng fuel,” stressed the senator.

“So, nakikiusap kami sa mga big oil companies, balansehin niyo ‘yung kita at ‘yung paghihirap ng ating bayan. Malaking bagay ‘yon. Malaking tulong ‘yon kung saka-sakaling pwedeng bumaba, babaan niyo agad ‘yung presyo. Iyan nga ‘yung purpose ng ating batas na deregulation. Puwedeng ibaba, puwedeng itaas,” he pointed out.