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Spend P75.2-B excess VAT to help people survive rising costs

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Government will stand to collect a total of P75.2B in incremental VAT collections if Dubai crude oil keeps rising. Since March, this year, oil reached $114 per barrel in June dropping to $90 a barrel today. However, OPEC recently declared a supply reduction, so prices will increase again. Since government operates on the economic projection this year of only $64.41/per barrel, the price and VAT difference equals whopping excess collections. If one listens to Albay congressman Joey Salceda, the total windfall by December would be P75.2-B.

Under the TRAIN LAW, VAT collections must be automatically suspended if prices are above $80 per barrel in three months. This has been going on since March or 8 months already, but legislators will not touch the issue saying suspension would only benefit the rich. This means the excess vat collections will continue and government has become the biggest and richest oil company in the country. Now, what will government do with this huge excess VAT that comes from the blood sweat and tears of our economy and every Filipino? To many, this is “profiteering” and “robbery” if they are not returned to the people.

Since January, Diesel was only at 47/L, now it is P82/L. Gasoline was P59.63/L, now it is nearing P80/L while Kerosene from P51.91/L then to P83.55 today. And all costs went up, rice, pork, sugar, galunggong, sardines, bread, electricity, jeepney fares, tricycle fares. Inflation rose to 6.9 percent and high prices will are continue this Yuletide season. This is compounded by the depreciating peso dollar exchange rate. Economic Sec. Ben Diokno says government will defend the peso and it will be P55 per dollar in December. Earlier, Rep. Salceda sees a low of P57 and a high of P65 to P68 per dollar in the coming months. Take your pick on who to believe.

So, the questions we should really ask are as follows.

How can this government continue to hold on to this P75.2B in windfall vat collections and not share with people now being pushed to deeper poverty? Why is Congress, thru the elected representatives, senators and even Malacañang, are acting business as usual in this very dire predicament of those in the lower rungs of society? Where are the proposed laws on “social amelioration programs” to help the most affected sectors? Are our officials waiting for a full-blown oil or economic crisis before they act?

I remember in 2008 when world oil prices reached $141.42 per barrel, then President GMA implemented KATAS NG VAT package of only P4.5B, from windfall excess collections, to help the most affected sectors. Launched were livelihood programs for families of public utility drivers, direct cash assistance to senior citizens, Pantawid Kuryente for lifeline rate users, expanded school feeding program, SME subsidies, FIELDS (Fertilizer, irrigation, extension and education, loans, dryers, and post-harvest facilities) rehabilitation of typhoon hit provinces and ARMM to name a few. The people and the economy then responded positively.

A few weeks ago, I was so jealous of the state of California, USA when it distributed inflation relief checks ranging from $200 to $1,050 for more than 3.5 M income tax filers. The main reason of the state was to help families due to increased gas and cost of living prices.

Within ASEAN, Indonesia with just 4.6 percent inflation is spending $644M as salary assistance to 16 million low paid workers, and around $145M will go to subsidizing transport costs for motorcycle taxi drivers and fishermen. More than 20.6 million poor families will receive $10 cash handouts (P500) until the year ends. Thailand, with inflation at 6.41 percent, has issued monthly subsidy of $3 for cooking gas to 3.6M workers and about 157,000 motorcycle taxi drivers will receive $7.50 a month for fuel. I also heard that even Japan and South Korea are giving back to their citizens its windfall tax benefits by way of subsidies or fuel tax cuts. In our country, where government has so much money to give, again P75.2-B, nothing is being discussed.

This subsidy method of helping their citizens fight inflation is happening all over the world, and I begin to wonder, why are our own officials still inattentive to the day-to-day survival of many? Are they not alarmed at this situation that people are becoming desperate for government help?

With P75.2 billion excess VAT collections, government can do a lot of things.
Help 19.4 million households nationwide pay their electricity bills, thru monthly subsidies ranging from 100 to 200 pesos a month. Launch fertilizer packages of P2,000 each to 5.6 million farmers and subsidize the 800,000 fisherfolk. Launch funds for the Drivers’ Pantawid Pasada, improve social pension for senior citizens, and accelerate rehabilitation of typhoon hit provinces, Odette and the most recent Karding.

Economics wise, these excess money will have a tremendous positive impact in boosting productivity. At the same time, people will realize that their government is sincere in helping them survive these crises of inflation, high oil prices and food security. However, if our economic managers will continue to be insensitive to people’s wails and still do nothing, then the same people will know what to do!

(end)

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