Business group supports Duterte’s new signed laws

By Chino S. Leyco

The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) lauded President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s signing of the rice tariffication law while changes in the private sector’s pension fund system would result in higher cost of doing business in the country.

Riza Mantaring Rizalina  G.  Mantaring

Rizalina G. Mantaring, MAP president, said yesterday that the conclusion of the three-decade efforts to impose tariff on imported rice, the country’s staple food, is a positive development for the Philippines as it will liberalize the flow of cheaper-priced rice into the domestic market.

“We’ve really supported the rice tariffication bill, so we’re very happy that after 30 years in the making I was told, it was finally approved so we’re quite happy,” Mantaring told reporters on the sidelines of the MAP economic briefing in Makati City.

Last Friday, President Duterte signed into law the rice tariffication bill that effectively replaces the present quotas on rice with tax. Based on estimates, the new measure would lower the price of grains by P2 to P7 per kilo.

Aside from rice tariffication, the President also signed into law the amendments to the charter of the Social Security System (SSS), which will raise the pension fund’s members’ monthly contribution.

While the SSS new charter brings in additional costs for the private sector, Mantaring, who is also the Sun Life Financial Philippines co-chair, said that she is still positive about the measure’s favorable impact on the pensioners and current members.

“Obviously it will make doing business more costly, more expensive when you raise the contributions,” Mantaring said, but she also admitted that the increase is necessary to sufficiently fund the forthcoming rise in monthly pension.

“We need to increase the contribution, which from an insurance perspective makes sense because how can you pay out more if you’re not putting in more,” Mantaring said. “Just like any insurance policy — if you expect a higher payout, you have to pay more premiums.”

Asked if the higher contribution rate will result in slower job hiring, Mantaring said “I don’t think so,” he said citing the economy is growing at a steady pace. “I don’t actually see that it would lead to job losses.”

The MAP head also welcomed the Durterte administration’s tax amnesty on estate levy and payment deficiencies along with the vetoed provision granting general amnesty to people who failed to pay correct taxes in 2017 and before.

President Duterte halted the implementation of the general amnesty program owing to absence of safeguards against tax evasion, like the lifting of bank secrecy law and the exchange of tax information with other countries.

“Of course, the tax amnesty for those are welcomed and since the law has been already passed addressing estate tax, so it’s really makes sense,” Mantaring said. “The others, the tax amnesty, we’re still studying because it wasn’t fully approved.”