‘Katas ng Saudi’ No More; OFW Earnings Go to VAT

With the rising cost of basic commodities coupled with the value-added tax (VAT), millions of overseas Filipino workers say goodbye to “Katas ng Saudi,” or big earnings from Saudi.

Vol. VIII, No. 22, JULY 6-12, 2008

“No more ‘Katas ng Saudi!’ OFWs are bleeding dry!”

This was the statement of the Middle East chapter of Migrante International amid the increasing prices of food and fuel that caused the country’s inflation rate to reach a 14-year high.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said, “With food inflation up to 17.4 percent and fuel inflation up to 22 percent as reported by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (bsp OR Central Bank of the Philippines), the ­so-called ‘Katas ng Saudi’ or OFW earnings becomes a myth and a wish of every OFWs.” He said that millions of ordinary OFWs are receiving only US$350 to US$500 a month.

Monterona cited the price of an 11 kg. liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank that increased by P76.94 to almost P600 from January to December 2007. “Now, how much is the cost of an 11 kg. LPG tank?” he asked.

He noted as well the Manila Water early this year has implemented a rate hike. Consumers who use 30 cubic meters per month pay an additional P60.

Monterona said, “Our dependents are asking us to send more…[we] tighten our belts and remit almost all of our income…” He said that most of them are looking for part-time jobs just to send more for their families back home.

Monterona said that the Arroyo government, if it has political will, could initiate “doable” economic policies that provide relief to consumers and the public in general.

He said that one of these is the removal of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on power and petroleum products. This, he said, will give consumers especially the poor, OFWs and their families’ immediate relief from rising prices greatly affecting every OFW households’ meager income.’

The OFW leader cited a study by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) which shows that scrapping the VAT on oil can immediately bring down pump prices of unleaded gasoline by P5.83 per liter; kerosene, P5.29; diesel, P4.98; and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), P68.83 per 11-kilogram cylinder.
“The Arroyo administration must set aside its greed for the P54 billion annual revenues collected from VAT imposition on oil products,” Monterona added. He said that VAT assures foreign creditors of debt payments.

“We are calling all OFW-families, dependents and relatives to join scheduled mass actions aiming to put more pressure on the Arroyo regime to scrap the VAT on oil,” Monterona said. Bulatlat

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