By Ellson Quismorio
The chairman of the powerful House committee on ways and means today said he is “open” to the suspension of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) — or at least a certain part of it.
Quirino lone district Rep. Dakila Carlo Cua today bared in a DZBB radio interview that studies on the economic impact of TRAIN, which took effect only in January, are both welcome and warranted.
“Bukas naman tayo sa kanilang panawagang pag-aralan ito. In fact gusto ko ring malaman kamusta ang kalusugan ng ekonomiya (We are open to their appeal to study it. In fact I also want to determine the health of the economy),” Cua said, referring to the critics of the law.
“Kung mapapatunayan at malalaman natin na makakatulong ang paghinto ng TRAIN ay open naman po tayo dyan (If it is proven and determined that suspending TRAIN would be helpful then we are open to it),” the House official added.
TRAIN lowers income tax rates for Filipinos, with the tradeoff coming in the form of excise taxes on commodities such as coal, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), and petroleum products.
Those opposing TRAIN–which is only the first part of the Duterte administration’s sweeping tax reform agenda–has branded the law as anti-poor for jacking up the price of various basic goods.
But Cua clarified later in the interview that the entire TRAIN law doesn’t deserve to be suspended because it has resulted in some positive effects, too.
“Kasi ang TRAIN…ay may magaganda rin namang features ito tulad nong pagbaba ng income tax rate natin. Yong P250,000 na paluwag sa ating mga manggagawa na sumusweldo. Yon ang nakakatulong po. So wag naman po sana nating i-suspend yong features na ganon (Because TRAIN also has good features like the lowering of our income tax rates. Some 250,000 laborers benefit from it. That part of the law helps. So let us not suspend features like that), he said.
“Ang ayaw lang natin ay padalos-dalos nating ihihinto ang TRAIN. Kung buong batas ang ihihinto natin ay baka mas dehado pa yong taumbayan (What we don’t want is to hastily stop TRAIN. If we stop the entire law then the people could be at a disadvantage),” Cua said.
Petroleum excise tax
If anything, Cua only appears willing to study the possibility of suspending the excise tax on petroleum, which traditionally has a domino effect on other commodities.
“Kung yong tinutukoy nong ibang mga kasamahan natin ay suspinde lamang yong petrolyo, ay yon po ang tingnan natin (If my colleagues are talking about suspending only petroleum then let’s take a look at it),’” he added.
Still, Cua felt compelled to express his reservations about this.
“Siguro pag-isipan kasi natin. Kung talagang yon ang nagdudulot ng malaking pressure sa pagtaas ng mga presyo, then tama nga sigurong i-suspinde yon. Pero yon nga ang ating sinasabi, sa pag-aaral ng ating mga economic managers, hindi yon ang malaking contribution sa pagtaas ng presyo eh. So don tayo nag-aalala. Baka mamaya suspindehin natin, tapos yon pala mataas pa rin ang presyo (We should think about it. If it is really causing huge pressure to hike prices, then it is only right to suspend it. But inasofar as I’m concerned, our economic managers say that it doesn’t contribute much to price increases. That’s where we are worried. We might suspend it, but prices will remain high),” he said.
TRAIN imposes a P6 per liter excise tax on petroleum over a three-year period. Half of this took effect this year.