Senate bill sets Dubai crude at $80 as trigger for fuel excise tax freeze

A bill calling for the automatic suspension of Value Added Tax (VAT) and excise duties on petroleum products has been tabled in the Senate, setting as the triggering event the benchmark of Dubai crude oil exceeding $80 per barrel.

Dubai’s price trigger will be the Singapore Mean of Platts benchmark, which sets the benchmark for fuel prices in Asia.

The bill, an approximated version of Senate Bills (SB) 2320 and 2445 which were introduced on the 18e Congressional, but which remained on hold in the Senate committee after Congress ended, is among 10 priority bills Sen. Aquilino L. Pimentel III introduced on Monday.

The senator did not include a provision in SB 2320 that allows the president, through an executive order (EO), to reduce the rate or suspend VAT on petroleum products in the event of a national emergency or of a state of calamity for one year.

Senator Maria Imelda Josefa Remedios R. Marcos filed a separate bill authorizing the suspension by EO, also on Monday.

The main purposes of amendment contemplated in the bills are sections 106, 107 and 148 of the National Revenue Code 1997.

A suspension of the excise tax on petroleum products is unlikely under the new government, which was sworn in last week, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said.

He added that reversing such a suspension would be “very difficult”.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said he would look for other options to deal with spiraling fuel costs, noting that a suspension of excise taxes would significantly reduce government.

The finance ministry said a suspension could result in up to 131.4 billion pesos in lost revenue in 2022, the loss of which could potentially hamper economic recovery.

Pimentel also proposed a measure removing travel tax for Filipinos and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) nationals traveling to other ASEAN countries.

Meanwhile, Ms. Marcos has listed among her priority bills measures calling for tenant empowerment, a new omnibus electoral code and a Young Farmer Challenge Act, the Pandemic Protection Act.

She also proposed a bill exempting migrant workers from paying PhilHealth premiums.

Senator Lorna Regina B. Legarda’s priorities included a measure providing public school students at all grades with tablet computers.

Senate Bill 1 is known as the One Tablet, One Student Act. A version was filed on 18e Congress, but had not gone beyond the committee level when that Congress ended.

She also proposed a Magna Carta for public school teachers, a Magna Carta for private school teachers, and a measure increasing the salaries of public school teachers and staff.

Sen. Jose P. Estrada, Jr. listed among his priorities a measure to amend the Labor Code to appoint the Secretary of Commerce as Vice Chairman of the National Wage and Productivity Commission. The amendment is intended to guide the commission on business and investment conditions before any wage action is taken.

He also reintroduced a bill moving informal workers into the formal economy and proposed a measure tolerating penalties for household employers who fail to pay social security benefits.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara introduced the Export Development and Investment Bill, which aims to develop higher value and diversified export products.

Sen. Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva said he is focusing on “employment opportunity and job security” with a view to reducing poverty, he said in a statement.

He proposed institutionalizing the National Employment Recovery Strategy as a model for job creation, and the Security of Tenure Law for private sector workers. The latter was also tabled by Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel.

Mrs. Hontiveros also introduced the Philippine Rise Marine Resources Reservation Bill which declares part of the Philippine Rise (international name: Benham Rise) a protected area, prohibiting the destruction of wildlife found there and establishes a conservation and management regime.

Senator Manuel M. Lapid has proposed measures providing for a monthly social pension for indigent disabled people, the abolition of fees for professional examinations and the obligation for tourism professionals to pass a qualification examination. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

Norman D. Briggs