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(left)Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, (right)Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi

Traders warned vs profiteering

By Luis Leoncio

The government warned businesses against exploiting the start of the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) to cheat consumers as it threatened to slap profiteering charges against those suddenly jacking up prices of commodities particularly oil products.

The Department of Energy (DOE) warned the implementation of the new law would not automatically raise oil prices in the first month of the year.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the DOE is keeping a close watch over oil firms to prevent possible profiteering in the implementation of the TRAIN law.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) added it has strengthened monitoring of prices after the new tax law took effect on New Year’s Day.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said DTI has deployed several monitoring teams in Metro Manila and also across the country to ensure that business establishments are not taking advantage of the TRAIN Act for unnecessary price increases.

Lopez said seven teams have been formed within the National Capital Region and 15 teams nationwide, with the help of DTI regional offices, for price monitoring.

Lopez said increases in prices of petroleum products and sugar-sweetened beverages should not take effect until Jan. 15 or Jan. 21 due to the inventories of these products currently in the market.

No oil excise taxes should be collected within the first fifteen days of the year and no excise tax should be collected on liquefied petroleum gas within the first seven days, Cusi said.

The excise tax on coal does not apply on 2017 stockpiles and therefore, this should not result in an increase in electricity costs within 30 days, he added.

Cusi said the DOE will meet representatives of oil companies on Jan. 10 to tackle the mechanisms in the implementation of the new tax law.

Cusi 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.

“As directed by President Duterte, the government taxes should not profit the companies, because these are all intended for the services of the government to the public and the public alone,” Cusi said.

Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella added under the TRAIN law, the excise tax will be collected on a per liter basis for gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and fuel oils, while the excise tax for LPG will be collected per kilogram.

Cusi said the oil companies had willingly agreed to submit their stock inventories as of the cut-off date of December 31, 2017 under a notarized document to the DOE.

The oil companies also concurred to share their data on their sales to the dealers/ retailers to determine which stocks will be affected by the excise tax.

“We have to make an effort to make sure that the declared stockpiles are accurate and the DOE will come up with public advisories to let the public know that an increase is imminent,” Fuentebella said.

“It would have been simpler if we just issued a date but it would prejudice the consuming public and the government because the oil companies are like collecting agencies,” Assistant Secretary Bodie Pulido of the Oil Industry and Management Bureau said.

“If we don’t take the time to find out the actual stock inventory of oil companies, we might end up in a situation, where some companies might incur losses while some make a profit,” he added.

Oil companies were also directed to require their retailers to post what the products will be charged with excise tax and when it will be implemented.

Cusi said the DOE and other concerned government agencies would conduct random audit and monitoring activities on the compliance with TRAIN, both in the depot/ refinery and the retail level or gasoline stations.

Lopez added that prices of goods in the market remain stable based on the agency’s market monitoring.

Among the provisions of the TRAIN Act that will impact consumers include the excise tax on fuel and sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax.

The new law imposed P2.50 per liter excise tax on diesel and P7 per liter for regular and unleaded premium gasoline.

It also levied a P6 per liter tax on beverages using caloric and non-caloric sweeteners and P12 per liter for beverages using high fructose corn syrup.

These new taxes aim to offset revenue losses as the TRAIN law also lowers tax rates of 99 percent of the individual income taxpayers.

An expansion in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) of at least seven percent is possible this year with the implementation of the TRAIN Law.

The TRAIN was signed into law by President Duterte last Dec. 19 and took effect last Jan. 1. TRAIN exempts compensation earners and self-employed individuals with an annual taxable income of P250, 000 and below.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) estimates price increases of food and non-alcoholic beverages last month likely remained unchanged at 3.2 percent. Rice prices were also seen unchanged at 1 percent. Communication, education, and restaurant and miscellaneous services were likewise seen to stay at their levels.

The commodity groups that likely recorded slower price increases in December are housing, utilities and fuels, 3.7 percent from 4.2 percent a month ago; electricity, gas, and other fuels, 8.1 percent from 9.7 percent; transport, 2.8 percent from 4.4 percent; recreation and culture, 1.5 percent from 1.6 percent.

Also, data showed that Meralco’s per-kilowatt-hour rate for households consuming 200 KW for the month of December declined to P9.25 from P9.63 in November. Meralco’s generation charge for the month decreased to P4.60 from P4.91 a month ago.

Prices of diesel per liter in the National Capital Region increased to P36.20 last month from P35.46 in November. But prices of gasoline per liter in NCR declined to P48.12 from P48.48 a month ago.

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