Labor group fears over escalating US-Iran conflict

CLARK FREEPORT -- Anxiety over the US drone strike that killed senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani has reached Philippine soil, as a labor group asked President Rodrigo Duterte, on January 6, to suspend additional fuel taxes in anticipation of a global price spike.

A week after the third tranche of excise taxes on fuel and petroleum products was implemented under the Train law this New Year, the Buklurang Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) issued this appeal, on top of a demand to also scrap value added tax (VAT) on fuel.

“This is to cushion the imminent impacts of a rise in inflation as the US-Iran conflict heats up,” the BMP said in a statement on Monday.

“A full blown US-Iran conflict may push global crude oil prices to $80 per barrel, which will have a compounded and multi-faceted effect on the local economy. Prices would shoot up, including the rates of the oil-dependent energy sector. Overseas Filipino Workers remittances would drop. Employers would cut losses by resorting to abusive practices. Hoarders and speculators would use the opportunity to rake in quick profits,” BMP warned.

The group said “Malacañang should protect the consumers and overseas workers by acting quickly and decisively to shield them from inevitable price hikes on basic goods, a likely outcome triggered by a spike on the price of international oil from the Middle East.”

The White House has deployed additional 3,500 Marine troops in Iraq after Iranian officials vowed “harsh revenge” after the killing of Soleimani.

BMP chair Leody de Guzman asked the President “to immediately issue an executive order that will suspend the collection of excise and value added taxes on oil to avert inflationary impacts on commodities.”

“He must have the foresight and diligence to act swiftly in behalf of our struggling countrymen,” De Guzman said.

Already global crude oil prices have risen by over four percent rose to $69.16, while WTI increased 4.3 percent to $63.84, recent reports said.

De Guzman noted that “majority of Filipinos live in poverty. Any increase in prices would be harsh, if not fatal, not only to four-tenths of our labor force that belong to the informal economy but also to those in the formal sector who are already suffering from stagnated and starvation wages.”

He urged the Duterte regime “to sacrifice and share the burden for the sake of the people,” adding that the government could “pursue other sources of revenues such as by increasing taxes on properties, luxuries, and corporate incomes.”

De Guzman said the government should forego with its requirement of suspending further fuel taxes only if global crude oil prices reaches or exceeds $80 per barrel.

BMP also asked Malacañang “to be ready in executing evacuation protocols once the US-Iran turns violent and to deploy emergency employment opportunities for workers to be displaced throughout the conflict-riddled region.”

De Guzman said that as of 2016, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration recorded only 679 Filipinos working in both Iran and Iraq but he expressed fears that there are thousands more undocumented Filipinos in the two countries.

He further noted that neighboring Middle East nations, which also houses American military bases, and installations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Jordan and United Arab Emirates which are top destinations of OFWs “may fall victim to a ‘proxy war’ in the Middle East.” (Ding Cervantes)


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