By Hannah Torregoza
Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV on Tuesday urged the government to first tackle the controversial provisions under the current package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or the TRAIN law, before pushing for the second tranche of the tax reform program.
Aquino pointed out that some businessmen are already wary of the imminent risks bound to happen once Package 2 of the TRAIN law is implemented, as it seeks to rationalize the current tax incentives being enjoyed by major industries.
Business leaders, the opposition lawmaker said, are predicting that the TRAIN 2 will make the Philippines less competitive due to a possible slowing down of investments.
“Some businesses are concerned over TRAIN 2 as it would remove the incentives of some industries who are enjoying growth and who are enjoying investments from foreign groups,” Aquino told reporters in an interview.
He cited as an example those in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, semiconductors, and locators at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).
“These are all industries which are bringing in billions, creating thousands of jobs in our country. Let’s try not to inconvenience them. I think that’s the minimum. Let’s not create a law that has the potential to harm these industries,” Aquino said.
“So, I think we should tackle TRAIN 1, before tackling TRAIN 2. There are so many things we need to change under the TRAIN 1—one is to suspend the excise taxes on fuel and which we hope the government acts on immediately,” the senator added.
Aquino, at the same time, renewed his push for the government to suspend the collection of excise tax on fuel and other petroleum products. He said more and more people on the ground are increasingly complaining that prices of basic goods and services keep on increasing due to the effects of the TRAIN law.
“Apektado kasi iyon ang mga trabaho. Kung titingnan niyo po, presyo, trabaho, ito ang number one at number two issues ng taumbayan (Its because their livelihood is affected, if you look at it, prices and jobs are the number one and number two issues affecting the people),” he said.
“It’s not the West Philippine Sea, it’s not the judiciary, it’s not the ‘kiss’ of President Duterte,” he said referring to the controversial smack Duterte did with an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in South Korea during his state visit to the nation.
“We talk about those things in the media, but if you go to the communities, what they are talking about are the prices of goods, how they are having difficulty coping with their everyday expenses, their wages, and of course, their employment. Many people are actually looking for jobs,” he pointed out.
Aquino, likewise, debunked the warnings issued by the President’s economic team that the implementation of many of the landmark laws passed by Congress, such as the free college education law, would suffer once TRAIN law is suspended.
“Hindi po totoo iyan…kung tutuusin yung target po ng excise tax on petroleum products ay P70 billion. Magkano po ba ang budget ng gobyerno? Its P3.3 trillion, di hamak mas malaki doon sa collection na hinahabol natin sa TRAIN (That is not true…in reality the government’s target collection on excise tax on petroleum products is P70-billion. But how much is the government’s budget? It’s P3.3 trillion. This is apparently much bigger than the target revenues they are after under the TRAIN law),” he explained.
He also cited that the government has an under spending of P390 billion for 2017. “And probably this year may under spending pa ulit iyan,” he said.
Aquino said the government should also reform its revenue-generating agencies , particularly the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and the Bureau of Customs (BOC), to improve collections.
“Ito po dapat yung nilalagyan ng reporma, hindi yung nagdadagdag tayo ng presyo ng bilihin. Hindi dapat hino-hostage ang mga government service dahil lang po sa TRAIN Law (These are the ones that need to be reformed, not jacking up the prices of goods. Government services should not be held hostage just because of the TRAIN law),” he said.