Transport sector demands relief, calls on government to junk e-vat and deregulation

April 16. 2005
We come before the public and the government today to demand the scrapping of the current oil deregulation law and the exclusion of oil from the list of Expanded Value Added Tax. The latter is about to become a law as both Houses of Congress have already crafted unified bill.

The National Transportworkers Union-Alliance of Progressive Labor (NTU-APL) supports the planned transport strike on Monday for a fare hike, but we believe that it should be the last option since the riding public would be gravely affected by it. The fare hike is certainly an additional burden to the riding public, especially to the workers and their children, who have to look for other ways to augment the deficit it would create in their daily keep.

We would like to clarify that the real problem is the oil deregulation program of the government. It allows the oil companies to change the prices of oil without undergoing public hearings. Thus, we are prevented from knowing how the oil companies compute the exact rate or amount of the new price of diesel and gasoline. Without public hearings, oil companies increase at whim the prices of crude at staggering rates while very slow and deliberate in lowering them. Even then, the public do not know if we are being short-changed by the oil companies when they “lower” the prices. Unfortunately, the government has failed miserably to protect the consumers by failing to institute safeguard mechanisms whenever oil price hikes are inevitable.

At the same time, we strongly believe that the imminent passage of VAT increases from the current 10% to a proposed 12%, and the attendant lifting of exemptions on certain products like oil will mean additional burden on the poor drivers and operators nationwide. The VAT system has proven ineffective in generating revenues for the government, and has only resulted in people shelling out more money to prop up a government that merely channel these much-needed resources away from social services into debt payments and military spending. The country’s fiscal crisis will not be solved through additional tax measures that will primarily hit the poor. What the government needs is an effective and transparent tax administration and collection that will enable it to collect needed revenues to finance pro-people programs.

As an immediate measure to help alleviate the misfortunes of transport workers, a fare increase of P2.50 is being sought in a petition with the LTFRB, which we hope the Executive will prioritize and accede to. In the meantime, a provisional fare increase of P1 is being negotiated through a petition also with the LTFRB. In addition, a discount is being asked from all oil companies to help ease the transport worker’s financial burden. Government must not immediately dismiss such demand, and instead open the channels for honest and productive dialogue as a solution here is only possible if government will listen to our policy recommendations. If these demands are not met, then the sector will paralyze the streets of the country.

For too long, this government has failed to substantially address the issues affecting the sector. A fare hike is not the only answer, even if this is also needed. In the long run, the government must address the various issues confronting its energy plan, the oil industry, its urban planning strategy and the transportation sector as a whole. Only then can we truly help our workers gain a more sustainable livelihood that will benefit the general public.

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