ROUGH CUTS| Who can disembark from this TRAIN?

BELIEVE us, shenanigans like money-making activities at the expense of hapless ordinary man on the street are not just the domain of people in government, these are also done by businessmen ranging from those who produce the goods and other articles of commerce to the lowest ambulant vendors on the streets.

These situations have become more overt and prevalent with the implementation of the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law starting the first day of January 2018. In reality though, we are surprised because everybody is saying TRAIN is already on the go. But we know that the law has not yet been published in any newspaper of national circulation and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) has not yet been finalized and published as well.

Anyhow, that is another aspect of the story. What we are presenting in this column of ours is the experiences of ordinary consumers who have done some purchases not only in department stores and groceries but in the public markets as well.

For example last Sunday we obliged with the wife’s request to accompany her to the market in Calinan to buy our week’s supply of vegetables, fish and meat. We were tasked to buy eggs, vegetables and fish while the wife went straight to the meat section.

Some two weeks before Christmas a kilo of “matambaka” was sold at P150; a kilo of tuna we got it at P380, while a kilo of blue marlin, medium shrimps, and “talakitok was at P280. Malasugi was sold at P420 per kilo. Large eggs were P5.50 each.

Last December 24 when we went back to the same market, a kilo of “matambaka” was already P250, tuna was P420, blue marlin, shrimps and talakitok were at P380 a kilo. Malasugi leap frogged to P540 per kilo.

The sharp increases were pocket draining but somehow there was acceptance of some kind because it was the eve of Christmas and fishermen who went out to sea may not have reached fifty percent of their usual number during ordinary days of the year. Besides, it’s Christmas. That was tolerable. It was basically the same situation during the eve of the New Year and on the first of January itself.

But it was a totally different disgusting story last Sunday, January 7. We were thinking that if there are increases to be done by vendors as an offshoot of TRAIN the base figure would have been the per kilo price some two weeks before the Holiday season. But no, the malfeasant retailers used their Christmas prices as the base figures of the increases. Hence, to my chagrin I found what used to be P5.50 per piece of egg large has a price tag of P6 and the XL sells at P6.50. Matambaka sells from P250 a kilo to P260. Tuna and malasugi has close to a hundred pesos hike per kilo from its week prior to Christmas selling tag.

On soft drinks and beverages a 1.5 liter bottle of a popular cola brand used to sell at P50. Now it is sold at P65 per 1.5 liter bottle. “On board” the TRAIN how much tax is collected from a one liter bottle? It is supposed to be only P2 or P2.50. How come the lowest retail stores are now selling the cola drink at P65?

And the increases in prices we are talking about here is only for those basic items needed in every Filipino’s kitchen. There are other items we have yet to find out when we are able to go to the groceries to buy other goods needed for our day-to-day existence.

Meanwhile, we have noticed that the increases on all the items we have purchased from the market are clearly not proportionate to the hike in taxes levied on the said merchandise. And what is sad is that the disproportionate is more on the amount of the increase in the cost of the items under TRAIN that is much higher than the actual percentage added to the tax rate before TRAIN.

It is on this aspect that government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture, Finance, Energy, the Bureau of Internal Revenue must mobilize its manpower resources to craft actual computation of maximum increases on cost of goods that businessmen can impose under the TRAIN. These agencies must not just allow the businessmen down to the smallest retailers to do their own math in determining the increase in the cost of items they sell.

Through these agencies the government must endeavor to come up with its computation of allowable price hikes and have these itemized computations disseminated as widely as possible. It has to reach every nook and cranny of the country and that any violation shall be dealt with accordingly.

With this development we are entertaining the thought that the noise created on the TRAIN being a regressive tax law, and that it is only beneficial to the rich, may not, after all, be the creation of anti-administration politicians. We are starting to believe that the noise is a proactive strategy of the business sector that stands to gain the most from the TRAIN implementation.

So, over the close to two weeks since the TRAIN started to roll, the government is getting an avalanche of complaints and scathing denunciation from the people. Meanwhile, the shrewd businessmen are running to their banks with bundles of money from the hard-up consumers.

Welcome on board! But it seems every Pedro, Pablo and Maria wants to disembark.

Posted in Opinion