By CHARISSA ATIENZA
House leaders yesterday called on the Duterte administration to keep an eye on oil firms and conduct on-the-spot audits to ensure that they do not engage in profiteering and prematurely hike their fuel prices following the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, sought the activation of an interagency task force that will conduct on-the-spot audits of oil companies to prevent them from applying the new excise tax to their old stocks.
Evardone said the task force, composed of the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Philippine National Police (PNP), will be tasked “to strictly monitor oil companies from possible violation of the existing laws.”
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, vicechairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said the immediate setting up of a task force would prevent oil companies and petroleum dealers from engaging in profiteeringfollowing the effectivity of the new excise tax rates under the TRAIN law on January 1.
“This proposed interagency body must be empowered to audit these private firms to make sure they do not shrewdly use the TRAIN as a ruse to jack up prices,” he said.
He reminded companies that they cannot raise their prices until their old oil stocks have been used up.
“The excise tax is paid at the point of importation or refinery thus the traders couldn’t jack up prices last Jan. 1 on their old stocks – to the detriment of Filipino consumers – using the new excise rates as an excuse,” Villafuerte said.
“Also, the monitoring and audit work of the proposed interagency group would serve as a dry run for the nationwide monitoring activity that the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs would be doing once the TRAIN-mandated fuel marking and monitoring system is in place later this year as part of the government drive to check smuggling and tax evasion by unscrupulous oil firms and petroleum dealers,” he said.
Deputy Speakers MiroQuimboof Marikina and Raneo Abu of Batangas warned oil companies against profiteering, saying that it is tantamount to economic sabotage.