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

Robie de Guzman   •   January 2, 2020   •   593

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.

Bill seeking accessible interventions for learners with disabilities filed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   July 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday said he has filed a bill seeking to increase access to early interventions and diagnosis for learners with disabilities, especially now that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic threatens their access to essential health and education services.

In filing Senate Bill 171 or the Inclusive for Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act, Gatchalian said interventions should be available to children aged zero to four at child development and daycare centers.

The lawmaker stressed that early detection and interventions in these centers can help learners with disabilities in their developmental milestones, especially when they join regular classes.

“Bilang pinakamalapit na mga institusyon sa ating mga kabataang may kapansanan, dapat may sapat na kakayahan ang ating mga child development centers o day care centers upang masuri ang kakayahan ng mga batang may kapansanan,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture.

“Sa pamamagitan ng mga maagang pagsusuring ito, malalaman natin ang mga hakbang na dapat nating gawin upang maging angkop sa isang batang may kapansanan ang edukasyong kanyang natatanggap,” he added.

Child development workers, however, need to be capacitated so they can address developmental delays and provide minimum interventions for learners with disabilities, Gatchalian said.

He also noted that during a Senate panel hearing, it was learned that less than 10 percent of child development workers are trained to manage children with disabilities in daycare centers, as shared by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Program Management Bureau (PMB).

In the absence of developmental pediatricians to provide medical diagnosis, Gatchalian said child development centers can conduct assessments to identify risks of developmental delays. These assessments are done with screening tools such as the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) checklist.

The senator also noted the estimation made by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), stating that there were 5.1 million children with disabilities in the country as of 2018.

Data from the Department of Education’s Learner Information System, however, reveals that as of July 15, only 51,375 learners with disabilities are enrolled for the coming school year.

“Every child has a right to an education commensurate with his abilities and to the development of his skills for the improvement of his capacity for service to himself and to his fellowmen,” Gatchalian stressed in the explanatory note of the proposal.

DOE assures enough power supply for the rest of the year

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 10, 2020

The Department of Energy (DOE) assured that the country has enough power supply to last the rest of the year due to the high amount of power reserve ever since the government implemented community quarantine.

DOE Asec. Redentor Delola there was an average of 30% power demand reduction in Luzon when several areas in the region were put under enhanced community quarantine.

Luzon currently has an actual gross reserve of 3,329 Megawatts (MW). From the available power capacity of 13,356 MW last July 6, the region only had an actual peak demand of 10,335 MW.

Power demand in the Visayas went down by 19%, and 20% in Mindanao.

Mahalaga po ito to ensure na ang mga pangangailangan, lalong lalo na po sa ating mga tahanan, ay nandyan. Wala po tayong inaasahang problema sa suplay (ng kuryente) (This is important, to ensure that the needs of every household are met. We have no impending problem with our (power) supply),” he said.

However, Delola said the Energy Department continues to coordinate with various agencies to address the power interruptions. He clarified that sufficient power supply does not mean that no power interruptions will be experienced.

Inaamin po natin na hindi naman natin maiiwasan lahat ng power outages mayroon po talagang hindi kayang pigilan may mga emergency na nangyayari tulad ng may posteng nabangga (We admit we cannot avoid all power outages. There will be emergencies that might happen like vehicles hitting electric posts),” he said. –AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

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Gatchalian pushes for business loan program to curb joblessness amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday called on the government to carry out a subsidy program that will help curb the rising unemployment rate in the country brought about by the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gatchalian, the vice chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs, suggested for the government to adopt a subsidy program similar to the Paycheck Protection program of the United States to prevent further lay-offs amid the public health crisis.

He said the Paycheck Protection Program is designed to provide incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

Under this setup, business owners can get full loan forgiveness as an incentive as long as the funds are used for eligible expenses.

This way, the company gets to retain its employees while maintaining its operations.

Gatchalian believes that if this program will be included in the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, dubbed as the Bayanihan Law 2, it will significantly help employees and companies.

“Marami talagang kumpanya na nagda-downsize at sigurado akong mas marami pa ang mawawalan ng trabaho. Tiyak babalik din sila sa gobyerno, sa LGU o sa national government. Hindi na yan kakayanin ng gobyerno. Babalik at babalik sila sa gobyerno para humingi ng suporta,” he said.

“A Paycheck Protection Program-like subsidy will hit two birds with one stone. You secure the tenure of employees and at the same time you generate the economic side,” he added.

The government has implemented the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program, which provides a P5,000 to P8,000 wage subsidy to employees through the Social Security System (SSS).

But Gatchalian pointed out that this one-time subsidy does not provide long-term support to employees.

The senator said many Filipinos have lost their jobs after companies opted to downsize their operations to trim their losses as they weather the economic impact of the pandemic.

Citing a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Gatchalian noted that 7.3 million Filipinos are unemployed as of April 2020, an all-time high unemployment rate.

The lawmaker also warned of uncertain labor market recovery after a study by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) revealed a 14% drop in global working hours during the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs, based on a 48-hour working week.

The same ILO study projects a decrease in working hours of 4.9% in the second half of the year which is equivalent to the loss of 140 million full-time jobs.

Gatchalian said there is a need for the government to prioritize the preservation of jobs in the country, and it will need an estimated P301 billion to create direct and indirect jobs for those impacted by the COVID-19-induced economic crisis for the rest of the year.

“The government has been calling for Filipinos to help spur the economy by spending more and taking advantage of record-low interest rates. But how can Juan dela Cruz think of spending his hard-earned cash during this crisis when he isn’t sure whether he’d be able to keep his job the following day,” he said.

That’s why I implore the government to prioritize the preservation of jobs of our kababayan so that they’ll be able to contribute in reviving our economy back,” he added.

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