Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is pushing for the temporary suspension of the fuel excise tax in the midst of skyrocketing prices sparked by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
A special session of Congress needs to be called for the suspension of the excise tax that could lower the price of fuel by as much as P12 per liter, which he fully supports, Zubiri said at a press conference at Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City Tuesday night, March 8.
Sorsogon governor and senatorial candidate Francis “Chiz” Escudero also issued a similar proposal at a separate press conference at L’Fisher Hotel in Bacolod City Tuesday morning.
The suspension of the excise tax can only be done temporarily because the funds raised from it are used for social services, such as the Universal Health Care Program and aid to the poorest of the poor, Zubiri said.
“We are prepared and ready to have a special session any time so we can tackle the issue of the higher cost of fuel,” he said.
Zubiri said there is also a need to increase the fuel subsidy for members of the transport sector.
Zubiri is also calling for the stronger implementation of the Biofuels Act, as an option for alternative fuels.
“Suspending excise tax is a short-term solution. We need to think long-term, to avoid coming to another situation like this in the future. So long as we are dependent on foreign oil, our prices will be dependent on the very volatile international arena as well, Zubiri said.
He stressed the need to strengthen local alternative fuel sources, like biodiesel and bioethanol, which can be produced in the country.
“I authored the Biofuels Act because I wanted to create an alternative fuel program. Unfortunately, the government never fully supported it, and there have been minimum investments in the country. We were hoping to follow Brazil, India, Thailand, and Malaysia that have their own biofuels production that is cheaper and homegrown,” he said.
“We can also promote electric vehicles so that we don’t need to use gasoline or diesel anymore for our daily transport,” he also said.
“Since we just ratified the Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act, which I also authored, we urge the government to fully implement this measure as soon as it’s law, so we can prioritize the sale and use of electric vehicles,” Zubiri said.
“We have the laws in place, we just need full government implementation to really start our shift toward alternative fuels. As we’re seeing now, we cannot afford to be dependent on imported fuels. We have to cultivate our own fuel industries, and ensure that we have sustainable fuel sources that our people can depend on at all times”, he added.
Escudero said there are four possible solutions to mitigate the effects of the soaring prices of fuel.
A special session of Congress could be called to give the departments of Energy and the of Finance the power to temporarily lower excise tax and Value Added Tax on petroleum products, he said.
Government could also reactivate the Oil Price Stabilization Fund, establish a strategic petroleum reserve, and review the Oil Deregulation Law, he said.
Rep. Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod partylist) said the only way the soaring prices of petroleum products can be handled is to call for a special session of Congress to suspend the excise tax.
Former Rep. Alfredo Benitez said government should accelerate its subsidy to the transport sector to cushion the impact of the increase in fuel prices.
“The earlier they give the subsidy the better for everyone,” Benitez said.*