By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The second tranche of the Duterte administration’s tax reform program may not see the light until the end of the 17th Congress and may have to be pushed anew after the midterm elections.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri raised the possibility as he admitted the lack of support for the proposed Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-quality Opportunities (TRABAHO) law among members of the Upper Chamber, as well as time constraint.
“I can see very little support from our colleagues on this. I’m just telling the truth. I see little support and we have very little time,” Zubiri told reporters in press forum on Thursday.
Zubiri said they only have one month before Congress adjourns anew for Christmas, and another month of session next year before their break ahead of the May, 2019 midterm polls.
Senators are expected to devote their remaining session days to tackling the proposed national budget for 2019 and other priority measures.
Aside from these, Zubiri also cited the opposition by “almost all the chambers of commerce” for its possible impact on businesses in the country.
“It would be very difficult to push for it in this (17th) Congress,” Zubiri said.
Zubiri also said that the government should put off the tax reform package until prices of goods stabilize.
“We just survived the high inflation…Mataas pa rin pero at least nag slow down. Hopefully next quarter, bababa na. I think we should sustain that momentum before we tackle another tax proposal,” he said.
He appealed to the government economic managers to instead push for “non controversial” tax measures which would not scare off investors and affect employment.
“There are other measure that we can look into, that do not entail inflationary spikes and loss of jobs,” he said.
TRABAHO bill, earlier known as TRAIN 2, proposes the reduction of corporate income tax but at the same time the removal of incentives currently enjoyed by investors and business sectors. Unlike in the Upper Chamber, however, the measure breezed through the scrutiny of the House of Representatives which approved it on third and final reading last September.
The Senate Committee on Ways and Means earlier decided to suspend its deliberation of the TRABAHO bill until economic managers and Labor department are able to present their joint study on the impact of the second tax reform measure, particularly on jobs.
Senators are looking into other measures as a replacement for the TRABAHO bill.