Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said he will strongly oppose any plan by the government’s economic managers to impose new tax or raise taxes by 2021.
Drilon said that instead of burdening the Filipino people with new or higher taxes next year, it would be better for the government to proceed with the sale of government properties and the privatization of the gaming industry to repay the debts incurred on COVID-19 efforts.
“We will oppose it. We are still grappling with the impact of the pandemic today and we do not see our country to begin recovery until the third quarter of 2021 for them to talk about raising and imposing new taxes by next year,” Drilon said.
“To raise or impose new taxes next year will be counterproductive and it will only be an added burden to Filipinos and businesses who are striving hard to get back on their feet,” the senator said.
The Senate minority chief echoed the projections made by reputable financial institutions that the country’s recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can only begin by the third quarter of 2021.
Drilon said there are still 90,000 business establishments that remain closed to this day, most of them are micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Surveys also showed that 7.3 million Filipinos have lost their jobs to the pandemic, and 7.7 million families are now hungry.
During a recent Senate budget hearing, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government will start looking at additional revenues to pay for the heavy indebtedness the country incurred during the pandemic.
Presently, the government’s foreign debt due to COVID-19 stands at US$9.9-billion.
But rather than talk about new taxes, Drilon said the government should consider generating funds to pay the country’s debts through the long overdue sale of government assets and the privatization of the gaming industry.
For one, he said the government can dispose of public assets such as Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame to repay its growing debt obligations.
Drilon also said President Duterte himself discussed the possibility of selling the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) “as a last resort” to generate funds to combat the pandemic.
“Why resort to raising taxes when we can generate funds by selling government properties and privatizing the gaming industry?” the lawmaker said.
He also said privatizing the gaming industry can also yield an estimated P300-billion in additional revenues, recalling the estimates made by the Finance Secretary.
Under the GOCC Governance Act, Drilon said the President is allowed to amend the charter of state-owned corporations including the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) without going to Congress.
“We must put more money in people’s pockets, not take their hard-earned money by raising taxes. A tax hike or a new tax will further hurt the people and the businesses during this extraordinary time in our history as a nation,” Drilon said.