By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has defended the government’s implementation of the tax reform law, saying revenues were needed to run the country.
The President issued the statement even after acknowledging that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law was among the factors that led to the country’s high inflation.
“We have all those problems, inflation is always there. There are many reasons but also actually one of them is the TRAIN but I need money also to run the country,” Duterte said during the Presidential Security Group (PSG) change of command ceremony at the Malacañang Park in Manila.
“If you do not give it, fine,” said Duterte, who signed the law that imposed higher excise taxes on fuel, cars, and sweetened beverages.
Duterte explained the government pursued the revenue generation scheme after Congress refused to grant him emergency powers to ease the traffic problems in Metro Manila. He recalled that Congress was “skeptic” to give him the funds, which might run to billions since these might supposedly “end up in corruption.”
“Kaya sabi ko [I said] if that is how you think of us, me, then forget it. I will look for other ways of doing it,” he said.
“Pero sabihin mo na nanakawin ko, then I don’t think so,” he said, insisting that no government contracts and other transactions reach his desk.
The Department of Finance (DOF) earlier opposed the proposed suspension of the TRAIN law despite complaints of soaring consumer prices. Officials claimed that suspending the tax reform package would derail the implementation of government projects such as free tuition in state universities and colleges and the infrastructure program.
Finance Assistant Secretary Paola Alvarez recently said TRAIN accounted only for 0.4 percentage point of the 4.5 percent inflation rate. Fuel excise tax only contributed a fraction of oil price hike or P3 in gas retail prices and P2.8 in diesel prices.