DOE urged to create body to monitor new round of fuel tax hikes

Robie de Guzman   •   January 2, 2020   •   656

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to create a task force that will closely monitor the implementation of the new round of increases in excise tax on fuel.

Gatchalian made the call as the third and last tranche of tax hikes on petroleum products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law took effect on Wednesday, January 1, 2020.

He said that under the TRAIN Law, the estimated rate impact on pump price for unleaded premium gasoline would be around ₱1.01 per liter, while the estimated rate impact of the third tranche of the excise tax on diesel price is ₱1.65 per liter.

For 100 percent coal contracted power distribution utilities, the estimated rate impact is around ₱0.03 per kilowatt hour.

The senator said the creation of the task force is aimed to protect consumers from premature price increases and profiteering.

“Kailangan paigtinging mabuti ng Department of Energy (DOE) ang pagbabantay laban sa hoarding at profiteering sa bansa ngayong nakaamba ang dagdag na excise tax sa huling pagkakataon,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“Huwag na nating hayaan ang ilang mapagsamantalang retailers na ibenta sa mataas na halaga ang kanilang mga lumang imbentaryong produkto, gayong nabili nila ito bago pa man maimplementa ang third tranche ng excise tax sa fuel,” he added.

Gatchalian noted that local oil companies maintain a minimum inventory equivalent to 15-day supply of petroleum products as provided under DOE’s Department Circular No. 2003-01-001 or the Implementing Guidelines for the Minimum Inventory Requirements of Petroleum of Oil Companies and Bulk Suppliers.

The DOE earlier said the new round of fuel tax hikes are only applicable to new stocks imported beginning January 1, 2020. It also advised oil firms to deplete old stocks before implementing new price schemes reflecting the new levies.

Gatchalian also called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to monitor the prices of goods in the market in order to ensure that unscrupulous businessmen will not take advantage and pass on the impact of higher oil prices to consumers as a result of the third tranche of the TRAIN law implementation.

“Mabigat na sa bulsa ng bawat isa ang pagpataw ng excise tax sa krudo. Sana naman ay huwag na natin dagdagan ang pasanin ng taong bayan sa pamamagitan ng hindi makatarungang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin,” he said.

Gatchalian wants to regulate online business transactions to protect consumers

Robie de Guzman   •   September 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday pushed for the passage of a bill seeking to put in place strict regulations to protect consumers amid the radical change in the country’s business climate with more online businesses registering.

In a statement, Gatchalian said his Senate Bill No. 1591 or the Internet Transactions Act aims to update the country’s regulatory environment to protect consumers from “unethical and unscrupulous practices” on the internet.

Gatchalian said it is important for the government regulatory board and online shopping platforms “to get their acts together” to easily track down those liable from unscrupulous online trading as more and more people and entrepreneurs are shifting their transactions online.

The lawmaker took note of the significant increase in the number of online businesses registering with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) from March 16 to August 31, or a total of 73,276 businesses registered. This is a sharp rise from the 1,753 online businesses that have registered with the agency before the strict community quarantine was imposed in the country.

While e-Commerce makes transactions easier and faster and strengthens the country’s digital economy, Gatchalian said consumers may run the risk of being fooled into buying products to the detriment of their health.

He is particularly referring to supplements being sold in various online selling platforms despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration.

“This is a dilemma of the future. There are a lot of online platforms right now and they have the entire marketplace where suppliers can get all the products all over the world. Walang habol ang online buyers kung may problema sa nabili nilang produkto. They are left holding the bag,” he said.

“So, this is something that the bill wants to solve – to make online platforms liable so that they can keep track of the supplies they’re selling in the marketplace,” he added.

He said online selling platforms should step up and implement measures to stop unscrupulous activities.

“What are they doing to stop this? Up to this time, this is still happening. Our kababayans are consuming all products they see online but obviously these online platforms are not doing enough,” he added.

Gatchalian stressed that it is paramount to enact the bill into law to resolve key concerns in the country’s eCommerce industry such as internet and logistics infrastructure, payment mechanisms, taxation, and online consumer complaints.

Gatchalian backs military deployment to help enforce quarantine measures

Robie de Guzman   •   August 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is in favor of mobilizing military personnel to strictly enforce quarantine measures, citing the need to support the police and barangay officials on the ground who have been falling ill due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement on Sunday, Gatchalian said that if quarantine measures, especially the on-going modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal), are not enforced, it becomes useless to shut down the economy because the virus will only continue to spread.

“I agree that we need to mobilize the military in so far as putting more boots on the ground and enforcing the MECQ because if we don’t enforce the MECQ to the letter, then it is useless closing the economy,” Gatchalian said.

“It’s a double whammy. You don’t stop the virus and you’re preventing people from earning,” he added.

Gatchalian also made an example of the increasing number of infections among police and barangay officials in Valenzuela, which is now almost at 2,000.

These officials, however, are the only ones that local governments can immediately deploy to enforce quarantine measures.

He said that by calling for military back-up, local governments can increase the number of enforcers to ensure that quarantine measures are effectively imposed.

“For practical purposes, we really need to have more enforcers on the ground, and this is where the military plays a very big role,” he said.

“In fact, kami sa Valenzuela we wrote AFP to give us more military presence kasi nga ang dami naming police na nagkakasakit,” he added.

The lawmaker also stressed that increased military presence in a locality does not mean they are taking over the enforcement of quarantine measures to beat COVID-19.

He shared that in Valenzuela, deployed military personnel take their directions from the police chief and the local chief executive, adding that the military do not have policing powers. He also said that the display of authority by military personnel compels the public to follow quarantine protocols.

Gatchalian also debunked the notion that the national response to COVID-19 is militaristic, emphasizing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is not the one enforcing the strategy to beat the virus.

He pointed out that aside from the health aspect of the response to COVID-19, there are also logistics concerns that are best assigned to the military. These include the transportation and distribution of personal protective equipment, and other health supplies.

Gatchalian also emphasized that those who are leading the national response to COVID-19 were specifically appointed for task-driven roles, with medical experts still leading the health aspect of the country’s coronavirus strategy.

Gatchalian wants probe on quality of DepEd’s lessons for distance learning

Robie de Guzman   •   August 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is pushing for a Senate inquiry on the content of lessons to be used by the Department of Education (DepEd) for its distance learning program.

Gatchalian issued the statement on Friday after DepEd drew criticisms over some of its episodes containing grammatical and typographical errors.

DepEd started its test broadcast of television episodes on state-run Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13) and Solar Learning. However, photos showing a Grade 8 lesson went viral as netizens slammed what some described as “painful” errors in the lesson.

While DepEd already acknowledged the errors and vowed to make improvements on its TV broadcast content, Gatchalian stressed that quality control should not be compromised amid the rush to make learning resources available when classes open.

“We’ll probably have another hearing on the content aspect of distance learning because quality control is very important,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, reiterated that the reach of television makes it a viable tool for distance learning, especially for those who have no available internet connectivity.

Citing information from Dataxis, a global firm specializing in telecom and media business, he said 18.7 million Filipino households have television in 2019, a number that is expected to increase to 20.7 million by 2024.

The lawmaker added that since not all parents can teach their children at home because some of them have not completed schooling, teachers can guide learners through recorded lessons for television. Parents, on the other hand, can ensure that their children are focused on studying.

He noted that some local government units (LGU) have already partnered with local television stations to broadcast recorded lessons.

He cited as an example a local cable service provider in Luna, Isabela which provided two channels for the province’s ‘TV-Eskwela’. One channel will be used for elementary while the other will be for high school learners.

Isabela City in Basilan has also forged a partnership with a local cable service provider to put up ‘TELEdukasyon’.

Under the partnership, the P1,500 cable installation fee is waived and parents will just have to pay for the P350 subscription fee monthly, which gives them access to three channels dedicated to distance learning.

“Sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon ngayong panahon ng krisis, hindi lang ang pag-abot sa ating mga mag-aaral ang dapat nating pinag-uusapan. Mahalagang tutukan natin kung paano masisigurong dekalidad ang edukasyon na natatanggap nila kahit na sila ay nasa mga tahanan nila,” Gatchalian said.

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