The sudden increase of oil price has become the fodder of the opposition to launch an attack on the Duterte administration. One leading newspaper came out with a screaming headline “TRAIN IS LEADING TO JOBLESSNESS”. Populist politicians in the mold of Neri Colmenares joined street parliamentarians in denouncing the government Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law and demanded its suspension.

Colmenares and his cabal pander themselves to the poor, mouthing simplistic solutions like stopping the TRAIN law. They have not graduated from being rabble-rousers.

Colmenares, for one, knew that he only needs less than 300 thousand votes to get back to congress and he has brain enough to muster that number from among those who would believe him. There are still over a million nitwits who would believe his fairy tales.

What if we give in to the folly of Colmenares and his counterpart in the Senate, Bam Aquino? Are the middle income wage earners prepared to pay P50,000.00 in income tax, which under the TRAIN law exempt them from paying? They comprise about 83 percent of the total taxpayers of the country whose bonuses will also be tax free. Small businesses like your next door sari-sari store with P3-million sales are also VAT-free. But yes Coke and other soft drinks are now sold at a higher price but it’s good for your health.

What the critics are keeping from the public are the reasons behind the sudden increase of prime commodities and cost of services. Television networks listen to the sound bites of political opposition and look for explanations from jeepney and tricycle drivers why prices increased.

The hoi polloi, of course, are in limbo that in the opposite corner of the world Venezuela stopped pumping oil and Iran is tightening the spigots of its oil wells in retaliation to the US sanctions. The price of oil spiked to $77 dollars per barrel and now is threatening to breach the $80/b. The US would not mind this as they have sufficient supply of fuel coming from their shale oil. It is a cruel and crazy geopolitics the effect of which hits the Philippines in the solar plexus. Dollar interest is on the rise, so hot money that roost in the Philippines for some time finds its path back to the US. Inflation sets in and we suffer. Add to that the scenario conjured by the doomsayers in the opposition and we get a headline TRAIN IS LEADING TO JOBLESSNESS. More than 10 million OFW families, on the other hand, are celebrating they have more pesos in their hands for every dollar they received.

However, as we have experienced in the past, this oil-fueled economic down-trend would not last long. While oil-producing countries see bonanza as non-producing nations are scrambling for limited supply, the conditions in Venezuela and Iran will not be forever. In the meantime, the OPEC production quota becomes a free for all so expect oil fields in Saudi Arabia and even our neighbor Indonesia to rev their pumps to churn more oil. Meantime, President Duterte recently opened the gate valve in the oil wells in Cebu. If we opt for joint venture with China, then we can expect substantial volume of gas and oil in our contested territory. Joint venture is a better option than the saber rattling and war which some critics propose.

We had always clamored for adequate infrastructures not only to move products but also lure investors to the Philippines. The challenge is daunting and given the Herculean task to achieve these is Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez. Under his watch, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs underwent purgation and the two revenue generating agencies had been hitting its collection quota. The DOF had crafted the tax reform law aimed at collecting more taxes from those who had been dodging and creatively evading paying tax. The Duterte government has identified at least 41 major infrastructure projects that include railways, air and sea ports, irrigations, roads and bridges and parallel to these the improvement of the Information and Telecommunications facilities.

While Secretary Dominguez does his homework, President Duterte’s own foreign affairs strategy gained tremendous impact on the shift of regional political alliances and trade. Dominguez and his team secured concessional loans with unprecedented terms that would give Philippines enough time to accomplish the projects first and attain commercial viability before we start paying those cheap loans from Japan and China. TRAIN will carry that load. On the flipside, employment opportunities needed for these projects and for new businesses are expected to emerge given the infrastructure systems that shall have been in place. This will lead to the recruitment of fresh graduates and experienced experts to run the new and varied enterprises.

Joblessness? Only a simpleton who has a sari-sari store mentality like Colmenares would say that. We do not need these characters whose myopic view of economy is as skimp as their brains. | OPINION


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