FOUR days before Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivers her State of the Nation Address (SONA), militants today staged a whole day of protest actions demanding the lifting of the “regressive and anti-people” value-added tax (VAT) on oil and power.

Led by Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and Laban ng Masa, the protesters conducted pickets and noise barrages in different parts of Metro Manila.

Dubbed as “a day of protest against soaring prices of and imposition of VAT on oil and power,” said mass actions culminated in “lights off” in various areas in Quezon City, Makati, San Juan, Pasig, Malabon, Navotas, Antipolo, Las Pinas and Bulacan. Residents of these areas switched off their lights to dramatize the skyrocketing prices of oil and electricity.

“People have long been suffering from high prices of goods and services because of the continuous increase in oil and power rates. Their daily income is not even sufficient for them to have decent meals. Their monthly electricity bill gobbles up twenty percent of their budget,” said FDC vice president Wilson Fortaleza.

Based on FDC figures, since the oil industry became fully deregulated in 1998, the price of diesel today has already increased by three hundred forty-four percent (344%) while the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) has increased by more than one hundred percent (100%).

Further, FDC said that under the administration of Mrs. Arroyo, the cost of power has almost doubled to P9 per kilowatt-hour from P5 per KWh before she signed the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) into law in 2001.

“We don’t want empty and grandeur promises from Mrs. Arroyo. We are not in fantasy land here. We want concrete actions that will alleviate the sorry plight of the majority of the people. We want economic relief. We want the value-added tax on sensitive products and services such as oil and power be scrapped. Ngayon na, hindi sa susunod pa! That is our SONA Challenge to Mrs. Arroyo.” stressed Fortaleza.

"When a policy worsens rather than alleviates the lives of the people, the government must get rid of it. Similarly, when a government official ceases to serve the interest of the people, he or she must be booted out of office. Just like VAT that causes the suffering of the people, Mrs. Arroyo deserves to be removed from office when she no longer serve the interest of the people," Fortaleza added.

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