Sotto dismisses appeals for TRAIN law suspension

Published June 4, 2018, 7:06 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday dismissed appeals for the suspension of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, citing instead the need for a review of the law with government’s economic managers to thresh out its issues.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III gestures after elected as a newly Senate President at Senate Building in Pasay city, May 21,2018.(Czar Dancel)

Sotto maintained his stand on TRAIN even as President Duterte already left the fate of his priority tax measure to Congress as a response to criticisms on its implementation.

“You cannot suspend the entire TRAIN. There are so many good provisions [in it],” Sotto told the Manila Bulletin in a text message.

The solution, according to Sotto, is to conduct a review with the Department of Finance (DOF) of the tax reform program so the agency can shed light on the issues supposedly brought about by the law.

“We should review together with the DOF yun nagiging issue (the issues being raised) and questionable provisions to explain,” he said.

Senate committees have earlier conducted hearings on the effects of the TRAIN law to fuel, utilities, and transportation after inflation of consumer prices spiked to 4.5 percent last month and exceeded official targets.

But the DOF has been firm in defending the law, saying TRAIN was not the sole contributor to the increasing prices.

Today Sen.Grace Poe, who recently led the Senate public services committee hearings on TRAIN, reiterated her call to concerned government agencies for the immediate release of guidelines needed to implement the measures for poor families affected by the tax reform program.

Poe said she will write the Department of Finance, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Department of Labor, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Education to formally request that they issue the guidelines to immediately implement the social mitigating measures mandated under the TRAIN law.

“Poor families, students, drivers, commuters and others are already feeling the effects of increasing prices of fuel, commodities and services,” Poe said in a statement.

“Ipamahagi na agad ang subsidiya dahil nauna nang inapruba ang pangongolekta ng dagdag-buwis pero hindi pa inilalabas ang kaukulang tulong sa mga mahihirap. Kailangan nang madaliin iyan dahil nangangalahati na ang taon at marami na ang umaaray sa tumataas na presyo ng produkto (The subsidies should now be distributed since additional taxes are already approved. But the appropriate aid for the poor has yet to be released. We should expedite this because we are halfway this year and people are complaining about the increasing prices of products),” she added.

Under Section 82 of the TRAIN law, jeepney franchise holders are entitled to fuel vouchers; while minimum-wage earners and the poorest 50 percent of the population are qualified for fare discounts, discounted National Food Authority rice and free skills training.

At the same time, a total of 10 million low-income households shall each receive P200 per month this year under the Department of the Social Welfare and Development unconditional cash transfer program. It shall increase to P300 monthly in 2019 and 2020.

During the hearing of the public services panel in Albay on Friday, the DOTr admitted that they have yet to finalize the guidelines for fuel voucher assistance to jeepney drivers.

Also, of the 10-million low-income households qualified for the targeted cash assistance of the DSWD, senators learned that only 4.4-illion families have so far been given the financial subsidies.