Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Negrenses asked to support Gordon's EVAT proposal

The Philippine Star

With All Saints’ Day fast approaching, there has been an increase in the media hype on the implementation of the expanded value-added tax (EVAT). Doomsayers predict the worst case scenario — a collapse of the economy and more street protests. Government, on the other hand, insists that the economy is on the takeoff stage.

For one, there is a move by Sen. Mar Roxas to conduct a hearing yesterday on the impact of EVAT on basic commodities and its overall effect on people’s purchasing power.

Roxas pointed out that the government cannot adopt a business-as-usual attitude insofar as the EVAT is concerned.

Somehow, one must be able to anticipate that there will be a collective howl when the prices of fuel and power go up. For the administration spokesmen, the increase will be acceptable, the impact minimal.

But something seems to be missing in all those protestations. Undoubtedly, based on the talks going around, especially among agricultural farmers, the higher cost of inputs seems to have been overlooked by government defenders of EVAT.

That’s why members of the Confederation of Sugar Producers’ Associations Inc. (CONFED), led by its president Reynaldo Bantug, threw their support behind the proposal by Sen. Richard Gordon for a compromise formula to ease the expected non-collection of P60 billion from the EVAT on fuel and power.

He proposed that in lieu of the additional tax on fuel and power, the government should instead tax text messages. This, he told Negrense sugarmen, could generate an additional P80 to P90 billion, which is more than enough to compensate for the P60-billion sortfall from the tax on fuel and power.

"In the past, most people proposed only suspension of the EVAT’s implementation. Sen. Gordon, however, came up with a doable proposal.

Perhaps President Arroyo and her advisers may be able to see their way through the dilemna confronting the administration. They can adopt the Gordon proposal without rousing so much opposition as Luis Tongoy, chair of the Negros-Panay Chapter, sees it.

It is a fact that the country is now considered the texting capital of the world. But text messaging has become a sort of entertainment and obsession for most Pinoys. Thus, we see youngsters going to school with cellphones glued to their ears. And the most disconcerting is to see party attendants or reunion guests hardly speaking to one other, focusing only on their cellphones and sending text messages.

Thus, it is possible that if the EVAT on fuel and power is suspended and the tax on text messages adopted, the expected increase in the prices of basic commodities may be averted.

Nobody in his right senses can believe that additional taxes on fuel and power will not affect prime commodities.

As pointed out by farmers, the prices of fertilizer and other agricultural inputs had become so prohibitive. And the EVAT will also boost the cost of transport and food processing. While technocrats are just focused on table computation, they seem not to have ears on the ground. Neither have they considered the impact of escalating transport expenses, like the case in Antique where tricycle fares had been hiked to P3.50 minimum.

It’s time for GMA to certify as urgent the Senate bill seeking to suspend the EVAT on power and fuel.

In the United States, according to Gordon, "when you receive a call or text, you pay. In the Philippines, we only pay when we text and call.

The text tax, Gordon said, will hurt people less, because they can do without texting all the time. But fuel and electricity are necessities, he added.

Sugar leaders, like Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and Manuel Lamata of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines (UNIFED), agreed with the Gordon proposal.

We support the initiative of Sen. Gordon to exempt fuel and power from EVAT and instead tax text messages, stressed Bantug on behalf of the Confed.

Perhaps we might be able to stop the Pista sa mga Minatay and really transform All Saints’ Day into a fiesta celebration.


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