Government takes further steps to cushion rising costs for Filipinos

Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte has said the government may have to take another step back in its revenue generation programme and order the suspension of excise tax on oil imports, to cushion the impact of rising costs of goods on Filipinos.

“Maybe we will do that (suspend oil excise taxes)” the President said, in a press briefing on Wednesday at the palace.

Over the past five months, Filipinos have been confronted with the steadily rising cost of goods, as inflation hit 6.7 per cent in September. In January 2018, inflation started to rise at 3.4 per cent, going up to 4.6 in May, 5.7 in July, and reaching 6.4 in August.

The government sees the rising cost of fuel oil as the one of the culprits for the increasing cost of goods. The country imports nearly all of its fuel requirements and cutting back on excise will dramatically impact the costs of commodities.

Fuel costs comprise a large chunk of the expenditure of transporting goods.

Only recently, the government implemented the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Law. Under this measure, it can suspend the implementation of the higher excise tax, if oil prices in the world market reaches $80 (Dh299) per barrel.

Growing poor

Filipino consumers had been increasingly confronted by the high cost of basic commodities, cutting into family budgets.

High prices of rice, the country’s staple food, forced the government to take extraordinary measures that also let to the dismissal of the National Food Authority’s top official and the agency’s restructuring.

Only last October 9, Duterte ordered the liberalisation of rice importation to reduce the impact of inflation on common folk.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. had said Duterte has approved the unimpeded important of rice into the country.

“After a presentation conducted by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez that food items now [are] primarily responsible for an even increase in inflation rate for the last month, the President ordered the unimpeded importation of rice,” Roque said.

“He wants to flood the market with rice so that even if the price of crude and other oil prices should go up further, people will still have access to affordable rice,” he added.

According to the Third Quarter 2018 polls conducted by the independent research body Social Weather Stations (SWS), more than half of the Filipino families polled rate themselves as poor.

The poll was carried out in September and found that 52 per cent, or an estimated 12.2 million Filipino families, consider themselves in the “poor” category.

“This is four points above the 48 per cent (estimated 11.1 million families) in June 2018, and is the highest since the similar 52 per cent in December 2014,” SWS said.

The poll was carried out by sampling the responses of 1,500 statistically representative adults in Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The September 2018 survey likewise found that of the 52 per cent self-rated “poor” families, 8 per cent considered themselves “non-poor” one to four years ago.

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