April 23, 2018, 12:32 am
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Confusion ensues as TRAIN takes off

Government yesterday moved to quell the disinformation and confusion that arose from the implementation effective January 1 of Republic Act 10963 or  the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN)  on some sectors affected by the higher excise tax rates.

Government admits consumers may have to pay higher prices on some products such as fuel and sugar-sweetened beverages sooner or later.

The consolation, however, is individual income earners would also have higher  take-home pay beginning this month, thanks to TRAIN.

Higher take-home pay

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said those with  an annual taxable income of P250,000 and below or at least P21,000 a month are now exempt from personal income tax.

Roque said the TRAIN exemption should also apply to the 13th month pay and other bonuses amounting to P90,000 or below that the public received.

Roque also said that P200 monthly subsidy to poor households, in connection with TRAIN, would be implemented starting this month.

He said a technical working group will oversee the identifying and distribution of the monthly subsidy to the poor families.

“The cash grant will be distributed between January to July 2018,” he added.

But Roque said imposition of higher excise tax on certain product like fuel products as a result of TRAIN, would only be effective when the new supplies or stocks that would be still be acquired or delivered.

“The imposition of excise taxes should not affect current prices now…For instance, on the fuel products, they are not to be imposed on old inventories. They are to be imposed on new deliveries, (on deliveries) still to be made. Meaning that inventories that already exist should not be subjected to the additional excise tax,” he said.

TRAIN increased the excise tax on fuel products: gasoline,  P7 per liter, diesel and auto liquefied petroleum gas, P2.50 per liter; and kerosene, P3 per liter.

Watch out profiteers

The Department of Energy (DOE) said it is keeping a close watch over oil firms to prevent possible profiteering.

The agency has invited oil companies to a meeting to clarify the mechanisms in the implementation of the new tax law.
Energy undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said the additional excise tax on fuel under TRAIN should not affect the prices of old stocks of oil firms, including their stocks under the 15-day minimum inventory requirement.
Fuentebella said oil firms have agreed to submit their stock inventories as of the cut-off date Dec. 31, 2017 under a notarized document to be submitted to the DOE. The firms also concurred to share their data regarding their sales to the dealers and retailers to determine which stocks will be applied with the excise tax.
DOE assistant secretary Leonido Pulido said the agency expects the increase in prices of liquid petroleum 15 days after January 1. 

“We are basing this assumption on two things. We have an executive order on minimum inventory of 15 days. Based on DOE data, based on projections we made, the existing old stocks would take at least 15 days until they are exhausted. We also expect some old stock to last much, much longer,” Pulido said.

Meanwhile, for liquefied petroleum gas, exhaustion of old stock is expected after seven days.
Fuentebella also said  oil companies will require their retailers to post what products will be charged with excise tax and when the increase will be implemented. 

He  said the  DOE and other relevant government agencies will conduct random audit and monitoring activities on the compliance with TRAIN, both in the depot or refinery and the retail level or gasoline stations.

 On TRAIN’s effect on power rates, the official said the DOE is still holding meetings with electric distributors to compute its likely impact. 

“We will only have problems with these on its initial implementation, we still have two more tranches… This is a choice between to ensure what is fair to consumers as well as to oil companies or avoid a market distortion,” Fuentebella said.

Ramon Lopez, secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) yesterday said the new excise tax rates should not impact yet on gas stations as the latter carry inventory of old costing without excise tax that typically lasts for two to three weeks.

Lopez said the excise tax is to be applied on the  importation/refinery side.

He also clarified that the increase in oil prices last Tuesday was  due to the usual ups and downs of world oil prices which petroleum companies announce from time to time.

“DOE covers monitoring of gas station prices but DTI can coordinate with them for monitoring or receiving consumer complaints,” Lopez added.

Fare hike

Transport group Pasang Masa said it would ask LTFRB for a P12 minimum fare for jeepneys from the present P8 since its members  could not cope with the increase in fuel prices.

The Philippine National Taxi Operators Association also said it would be asking for a fare hike.

Grab Philippines yesterday said it will file a petition to increase fares by 6 to 10 percent.

Miguel Aguila, Grab Philippines legal head, said price increases om automobile, petroleum products and lubricating oils will affect the monthly income of Grab drivers since they need to spend more on fuel. 

Brian Cu, Grab Philippines head, said a full-time Grab driver spends P800 to P1,100 daily on gas and P600 to 800 for those using diesel. 

Cu said the company based the proposed fare adjustment on the average income of Grab drivers and the price of petrol. 

He said the average income of full-time Grab driver is anywhere between P2,500 to P3,600 and of that amount P900 to P1,100 is spent on gas. 

“If you multiply the excise tax, there is an increase of around 5 percent plus the maintenance and spare parts. That’s the basis of fare increase,” he said. 

Cu said the average fare covering 12 kilometers is around P150 to P170. 

“If you take 9 percent, it will be around P10 to P13 increase. Total fare will have an increase of P10 to P13,” he said. 

For taxis, Cu said drivers will base the fares on the taxi meters. 

Sen. Paolo Benigno  Aquino  cautioned the public about the possible domino effect of the increase in fuel prices as this will likely impact the prices of goods and other basic commodities that ordinary Filipinos patronize.

Price freeze?

Lopez yesterday  announced plans to freeze the prices of softdrinks until the middle of the month.

Lopez said stores and distributors have existing inventory bought from manufacturers at old prices.

He said on the average, softdrink companies deliver twice a month.

“We are getting confirmation now with softdrink companies how many days (worth of)   inventory  distributors and retailers  (have). My estimate based on experience delivery is twice a month deliveries, the usual level (of inventory) is two weeks.  If so, we can mandate prices of sugar-sweetened  at retail not  to change until January 15,” Lopez said in a text message to reporters.

Under TRAIN, beverages that use purely caloric and non-caloric sweeteners like  sweetened juice drinks, sweetened tea, carbonated beverages, flavored water, energy and sports drinks, powdered drinks not classified as milk, juice, tea and coffee as well as cereal and grain beverages will carry a P6 excise per liter.

Those using purely high fructose corn syrup will be slapped P12 per liter.

But Lopez said for most products, manufacturers/retailers should not  increase their prices. 

“We are watching  out for hoarders and profiteers. We are monitoring closely price changes (in the market),” said Lopez. 

He added the DTI is also ensuring prices are below suggested retail prices (SRP).

Minimal impact 

Lopez noted TRAIN for most products should have a minimal impact on inflation. 

He added that based on inflation model, the impact is around 0.7 percent.

“This is validated by the fact that the increase brought about by excise tax is about 7 to 8 percent and the fuel and transport cost as percentage of production cost is less than 5 percent. Thus the effect would be around 0.4 percent,” Lopez explained. 

Lopez said this minimal impact should not alter SRPs since manufacturers usually absorb the additional cost.

“(Companies)  also do not tend to individually increase price for fear of losing market share.

The changes in price of basic raw materials, if and when it happens, would have bigger impact on product pricing, example pork meat for canned meats, or wheat for flour, or flour for bread,” he added.

Wage hike clamor

The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) yesterday said it is looking at filing wage petitions in a bid to counter the effects of TRAIN.

In a statement, ALU-TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay said the group is  eyeing at the possibility of simultaneously filing wage petitions in all 17 regional wage boards.

“If the situation warrants, we will file the petition for workers to cope with rising cost of living even if the one-year prescribed for no wage increase period set by the wage board is still in effect,” said Tanjusay.

He said ALU-TUCP  will be making a decision as soon as it  sees substantial increases in the prices of basic commodities such as rice, fish, and vegetables; as well as in the cost of services such as transport fare, tuition fees, electricity, and water rates. 

“All we can do for now is put our ears close to the ground and monitor the impact of TRAIN Act to the inflation,” said Tanjusay.

Under the TRAIN law, the income tax rates shall be reduced for more income taxpayers as they will now include mid-level wage earners from the previous one involving minimum wage earners only.

However, the law is set to result to price increases for cars, fuel, tobacco, and some beverages, among others.

According to Tanjusay, they are also deeply worried over the adverse effect of the tax reform law to members of the informal economy.

Tanjusay said jeepney, tricycle, taxi, UV express, pedicab drivers as well as all sorts of vendors including sari-sari stores, fisherfolks, and farmers, among others are facing harder circumstances now that the law is in effect. (Jocelyn Montemayor, Jed Macapagal, Irma Isip, Ashzel Hachero, Evan Orias and Gerard Anthony Naval)
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