DOE: Fuel excise tax adjustments 'on the table' with Congress amid price hikes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 22) — The Department of Energy (DOE) said Friday talks are underway with lawmakers on adjustments in fuel excise tax as motorists deal with one oil price hike after another.

"Ang concept na gusto gawin ni Sec. [Alfonso] Cusi, by the time na nag-increase ang price, kung pwedeng magbawas ng excise tax," said DOE Asec. Gerardo Erguiza, noting they recently wrote to Congress to provide leeway to address the issue.

[Translation: The concept that Sec. Cusi wants is that excise tax will be reduced by the time the price (of fuel) will increase.]

Erguiza said the agency already discussed the matter with the House Committee on Transportation. "This matter on excise tax has already been put on the table," he further explained.

While calls have mounted for the suspension of excise tax on fuels, the Department of Finance has already said the government might lose over ₱131 billion in revenues with its implementation.

RELATED: Moreno, Marcos present similar proposals to curb effects of rising oil prices

DOF Usec. Antonette Tiokno's memorandum to DOF Sec. Carlos Dominguez III dated Oct. 20 also stated that the TRAIN Law cannot be invoked to suspend the imposition of petroleum excise taxes. Under the said measure, suspension may only be permitted from 2018 to 2020 once crude oil prices hit $80 per barrel.

Immediate responses pursued

Erguiza likewise listed measures the department has been taking to immediately mitigate the impact of higher oil prices.

These include meeting with oil companies and appealing for the issuance of discounts, and seeking higher operational capacities for jeepneys.

"Everybody agreed on that. The DOTr is doing the framework. DOTr has the authority. It will be submitted to the IATF," he said.

Earlier this week, the Department of Transportation said it will recommend to the IATF the raising of maximum passenger capacities in public utility vehicles with Metro Manila easing to Alert Level 3.

The increase in capacities from the current 50% will "not only help commuters but also PUV drivers and operators as well," the agency noted.

The DOTr also said it is pushing for assistance for affected public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers instead of fare hikes, which transport groups have been clamoring for a while now.

"Naiintindihan namin ang sitwasyon ng ating mga drayber at tsuper, ngunit naiintindihan din namin ang hirap ng ating mga commuter," said DOtr Secretary Arthur Tugade, stressing that increasing fares isn't timely as Filipinos are still dealing with job losses or recently restored livelihoods.

[Translation: We understand the situation of our drivers, but we also understand the struggle of our commuters.

Motorists saw fuel prices go up for the eighth straight week this week.