By Myrna M. Velasco
The Department of Energy (DOE) has been asked to stop the import duty-linked fuel price hikes amounting to P1.45 to P1.65 per liter because of the lapse of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act this June 25.
The price hikes had been on account of the 10-percent import duty for crude and finished petroleum products that was ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte under Executive Order No. 113 that was issued in May.
Under the EO, one policy condition on the increased import duty is for this to be enforced within the duration of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (Republic Act 11469), which was the government’s underpinning policy in enforcing lockdowns and had also set out its response mechanism at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
But since the Bayanihan Act already expired, Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) President Victorio Mario Dimagiba indicated that pass-on of higher costs to consumers on account of the import levy shall already stop; and the consumers may deserve a refund for higher costs paid on their pump purchases.
“For everybody’s information, the collection of the 10-percent tariff on fuel products ends June 25, 2020 based on Section 7 of Executive Order 113 Series of 2020 and the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law,” he stipulated.
Nevertheless, Dimagiba lamented the fact that until now “there are no guidelines nor information materials put about by the DOE.”
“We call on the government and the DOE to issue guidelines already on this issue so that consumers can benefit from lower fuel rates, especially during these challenging times of pandemic. We do not want to see another fiasco as what happened with the Energy Regulatory Commission where they were always late in issuing guidelines,” he stressed.
Dimagiba indicated that stopping the price hikes would be a prudent step, since “we as consumers are still recovering from the lockdown and the community quarantine, and we are all still adjusting to the new normal.”
He added “many people have already lost their jobs and have no means to raise money for their families,” citing further that “more and more, we see news about companies – even the big major corporations having to lay off employees,” while adding that “small businesses are also being forced to shut down.”
“With all this happening, motorists should be afforded lower rates in terms of fuel costs so as to ease their burden especially when it comes to transportation,” Dimagiba emphasized.
The LKI president further noted “the poor consumer should not be the one forced to carry the heavy responsibility of absorbing and paying for high fuel prices…and technically with no guidelines, there already is no real or actual basis on what the motorists should pay and this is very dangerous unless DOE and the oil companies already step up to the plate, and not abuse their power or leverage.”
The price increases from the hiked import levy should have been implemented in May, but because of the inventory requirement of the DOE, it took almost a month before supplies had been replenished.
The target is to raise P6.8 billion from that tax imposition –and the energy department is eyeing enforcement until December; which is the timeframe option set out under EO113.