By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director General Charito Plaza seems alone in the entire government bureaucracy fighting against the proposed “TRABAHO Bill” being pushed by technocrats who are not in touch with the “realities on the ground.”
“I will not be bullied,” said Plaza of her colleagues in the government as she declared defiance over efforts by colleagues in government to keep her mouth shut on the government’s tax incentives rationalization plan during her speech and interview later at the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines Economic Journalists Awards program.
“I will tell the President enough of the warnings, bullying and scolding. I have to speak up because of the interest of the Filipino people and I want President Duterte to succeed.”
Specifically, Plaza scored the Department of Finance for ignoring the people’s cry for jobs which the proposed TRABAHO Bill ironically is going to significantly reduce jobs and potential jobs creation.
“Technocrats have different points of view like the Department of Finance, all they think is where to get or produce taxes. We (PEZA) are different, we are public servants, we are serving people on the ground,” said Plaza, who has the rank of Brigadier General and served the government from 2012-2015 as Wing Commander of the 7th Air Force Wing Reserve to become the first woman General of the Philippine Air Force.
The former CARAGA Region Congresswoman also went ballistic against DOF Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua saying, “Usec Karl is okay but his exposure to reality is not because he has long been away in the country with his work at the World Bank, he does not know what’s happening on the ground, people are crying. What people need is jobs and government cannot provide these jobs only the private sector because they are the ones which bring in capital and bring big number of jobs.”
Even as she admitted of being on a “gag order” of sort by her superiors for the interest of the country, Plaza countered that they were never consulted even before and during the crafting of the bill when they were one affected by this second package of the government’s comprehensive tax reform program.
In declaring her defiance, Plaza said she has given up her silence for the sake of PEZA investors and industries, which are the ones investing and creating jobs for the interest of the country.
She said that industries and PEZA locators have invited the DOF to a dialogue but their pleas and compromises fell on deaf ears. Hence, the Trabaho bill is “creating a lot of uncertainties” as technocrats only “heard them out but never listened, they stick on what they believe must be implemented.”
With her frustration, Plaza, author of the PEZA Law, has asked for a meeting with President Duterte stressing this meeting is “urgent and critical” and must be heard by the President himself. She also expressed confidence that President Duterte will listen to her and understand because unlike the technocrats, “the president is a public servant and job creation is his priority and we want him to succeed.”
Already, PEZA investments were down 56 percent in the January-September period this year because of the uncertainties, which are pushing export-oriented enterprises to hold off expansion plans because the Philippines has been perceived as unstable in its policies and in honoring contracts and laws. As a result, she said, PEZA locators received orders from their principals to prepare for transfer to friendlier destinations in ASEAN like Vietnam and Thailand.