DOF: More groups back fuel excise tax adjustments

Originally published last 23 August 2017 as "More pro-health groups back fuel excise tax adjustments in TRAIN" at the Department of Finance website

Two more health advocacy groups have joined the snowballing clamor to adjust the excise taxes on fuel under the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act to squarely address the worsening air pollution in cities and help mitigate the devastating impact of global warming on the environment.

In two separate positions papers, the Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) group and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) called on the government to use the TRAIN as a tool to clear the way for the country’s quick transition to more renewable energy sources to help ensure a cleaner, safer and more sustainable means of supplying the needs of the power and transport sectors.

The ICSC also said it is supporting the TRAIN for “its progressive intent and equitable” effects, “as incremental revenues are needed for investments in human capital and badly needed infrastructure.”

“Meanwhile, the oppositors of tax reform contend that any increase on refined petroleum products is anti-poor. We don’t agree with that proposition. Instead, we support the assertion of the DOF (Department of Finance) that the poor can better be helped through improved targeting of poverty alleviation programs, instead of subsidizing pollutive behavior. The poor, in fact, suffer most—from health damages caused by pollution and from the impacts of climate change,” the ICSC said in its position paper submitted to the Senate ways and means committee chaired by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara.

The Committee has been holding public hearings on the proposed TRAIN, which was filed as Senate Bill No. 1408 by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III. The House of Representatives had approved its version of TRAIN–House Bill 5636–last May 31.

The ICSC also commended the DOF and the authors of SB 1408 “for taking this visionary initiative” of adjusting fuel excise taxes as a way to help implement the provisions of the Clean Air Act.

For its part, the HCWH said the TRAIN’s provisions on fuel excise taxes can help address the adverse health and environmental impacts of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to global warming and threats to public health.

The HCWH noted that outdoor air pollution as a result of emissions of fossil fuels remain one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide.

“In 2012, it was responsible for 3.7 million premature deaths from heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and acute lower respiratory infections in children,” HCWH said in its position paper that was also submitted to the Senate ways and means committee.

Besides worsening air pollution in the country, greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of fossil fuels also settle in the oceans. This, in turn, leads to ocean warming that is harmful to marine life and can also lead to oceanic acidification resulting to coral bleaching and eventual changes in the migration and feeding cycles of marine species, according to HCWH.

This series of adverse developments lead to a decline in fish catch and contamination of food sources, it added.

The HCWH called on the Congress to “make use of the excise tax to stimulate the quick transition to renewable energy, paving the way to a cleaner, safer and more sustainable transportation in the country.”

Earlier, the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) and the Clean Air Philippines Movement, Inc. (CAPMI) also backed the the TRAIN’s fuel excise tax provisions.

In separate statements, they said that the additional revenues to be collected from the fuel excise tax adjustments could be used to fund health care programs and other initiatives to improve the physical health and well-being of Filipinos.

They also lauded the DOF, which had craft the original version of TRAIN, for pursuing this health-friendly tax policy.

CAPMI said, meanwhile, that “We applaud the DOF’s effort to address this growing issue through a tax policy that would help curb behavior of Filipinos. We look forward to working with them and provide technical assistance towards our shared goal of a Clean Air Philippines. Their proposal has reinforced our hope that this administration is taking on a more prominent, inter-agency approach to relevant and pressing issues, including those that concern the environment.”