Coal tax under TRAIN will mean higher electricity costs, group warns

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 9 January) – The coal tax included in the administration’s tax reform program will drive electricity rates up, the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) said in a statement Monday.

Agham secretary-general Finesa Cosico said consumers “will be burdened with higher electricity rates despite standing to gain no real benefit from the supposed environmental regulation.”

A coal plant rises in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. MIndaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion will increase the coal tax from the current P10 per metric ton in a 50-100-150 hike scheme for three years, with the 50-peso increase slated this 2018, she said.

Under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), the coal tax may be passed on to consumers, she explained.

“As a pass-on charge, the coal tax will put the entire burden of rising power costs on consumers instead of taxing big-time coal businesses. As such, it will not inhibit the increase of coal-fired power plants,” she said.

Coal-fired power plants have been built in Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Sarangani, Lanao del Norte, Davao City and Davao Occidental.

In the same statement, Agham refuted claims that the coal tax is a step towards meeting the country’s carbon emission limits, saying pollution will remain at business-as-usual even with its full implementation.

“The coal tax does not change the fact that coal is still a cheap but dirty energy resource. It also does not change the Duterte government’s framework of using coal as the primary source in the country’s energy mix,” said Cosico.

“We demand the reorientation of the coal tax as a charge to be carried by corporations. We call to repeal the Epira which has allowed the phenomenon of such pass-on provision. We also call for the redistribution of the energy mix away from the pollutive coal to the indigenous energy resources abundant in the country,” she added.

President Rodrigo Duterte has defended the existence of coal-fired power plants in Mindanao, saying it is needed in Mindanao which had experienced periods of power outages.

“Science is good but technology is expensive. And Mindanao has had a shortfall for so many years of energy. We cannot develop until we have the power. And power is sometimes being challenged from all sides,” he said during the switch-on of Sarangani Energy Corporation’s coal plant in Sarangani on January 26 last year. (MindaNews)