Commentary: A clear signal from PGMA
By Henry S. Lagasca
San Fernando City, La Union (10 July) -- Administration critics claim that news reports on the proposal to suspend the 12- percent expanded value- added tax (EVAT) on oil draws conflicting statements from lawmakers and by no less than the economic team of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
For one, Sen. Mar Roxas is advocating a change on the status quo while NEDA acting Secretary Augusto Santos said the government is open to a lowering of the EVAT on oil.
Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, however, said that such a move would only benefit the rich.
Presidential economic adviser and Albay Gov. Jose Salceda was also offering a different view: capped or limited VAT for petroleum products.
President Arroyo's decision not to lift the 12 percent tax on imported oil prompted a scheduled meeting anytime today between the President and the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCB) which favors the EVAT suspension amid high oil and food prices.
But to rational observers, the real issue here is on what government measures were made to address the present economic problems.
And in addressing fuel and food price hikes with no end in sight would mean to only one thing: government to maintain its present level of tax collection and, in turn, help mitigate the impact of soaring prices on the cost of living of our people who can hardly provide their most basic and immediate needs.
PGMA's State of the Nation Address this July, as announced by Executive Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Eduardo Ermita, will center on government subsidies for the poor, electricity, food production and infrastructure notwithstanding jobs and education.
And the budget department said that all these are dependent on the availability of funds from the "windfall" EVAT collections.
PGMA's strong signal why using the EVAT to give subsidies to the poor is better than suspending the tax as this is a more direct relief to the people including rehabilitation of public school buildings damaged by typhoons "Cosme" and "Frank".
Hard-hit areas are clamoring for the upgrading of health care delivery services and the granting of a comprehensive social welfare benefits to the poor.
Sec. Ermita expressed hope that after the dialogue, the Bishops would get a clearer signal from the President on how she's addressing the present economic situation and that the prelates will also understand the Arroyo government's strategy in the fight against poverty.
To scrap the EVAT on oil will certainly affect the government's efficiency in delivering basic services to the poor and, after removing the tariff on oil, there is no way we can meet the target without EVAT.
Ms. Arroyo is open to suggestions and listening to all quarters, friends and foe, alike.
Tactical measures are in placed to fight poverty and are already working so that the people will continue to reap benefits from the economic battle plan versus soaring prices.
After all, the people have the right to know what is in store for their well-being and welfare from an administration that continuous to address the problem on oil price hike and rising cost of living. (PIA Region 1/LU) [top]