By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has rejected calls to suspend the new tax reform measure but promised to extend billions in subsidies to help the poor families cope with its impact.
In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, the President said the government was able to bankroll infrastructure project and better social services due to the implementation of the first package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.
“Some have incorrectly blamed our efforts toward a fairer tax system for all the price increases in the past months, and some irresponsibly suggesting to stop TRAIN’s implementation. We cannot and should not,” Duterte said.
“We need this for sustainable growth that leaves no Filipino left behind,” he said.
Duterte even lauded Congress for the timely passage of the TRAIN law, saying funds were made available to build better roads and bridges, and improve health and education, and strengthen the country’s safety and security.
He said the tax reform measure was also helping poor families and senior citizens cope up with rising prices.
He cited that the government has distributed unconditional cash transfers to 4 million people, and will help 6 million more this year.
Following the one-peso discount per liter in gas stations, he said the government also started releasing fuel vouchers to public utility jeeps and other valid franchises. The distribution of National Food Authority (NFA) rice has also been hastened to provide affordable rice for all, he added.
“This year, we are giving P149 billion worth of subsidies to the poor and vulnerable. Next year, the amount will be increased to P169 billion,” he said.
The President earlier signed Republic Act No. 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act, that allows lower personal income tax to offset higher taxes on fuel, cars, and sweetened beverages.
The law, which took effect early this year, has been blamed by some groups for contributing to the soaring prices of consumer goods.
The President, meantime, urged Congress to pass the second package of TRAIN that seeks seeks to lower the corporate income tax while rationalizing fiscal incentives.
He said lower taxes mean small business will have more money to invest and create more jobs.
“More than 99 percent of our businesses are micro, small, or medium enterprises (MSME) and employ around 65 percent of our workers. The enactment of the Package 2 is what stands between today and millions of jobs in the near future,” he added.
“This matter is urgent. Do not be part of the problem by ignoring it. I hope to sign Package 2 before the year ends. I urge Congress to pass it in a form that satisfies our goals and serves the interests of the many, not just the wealthy few,” he added.