Consumer group worries of TRAIN 2 despite new discounts, subsidies in 2019

Marje Pelayo   •   December 25, 2018   •   2695

 

MANILA, Philippines – Discounts in prices of prescription medicines are expected starting January 1, 2019 according to the provisions of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

“Dito po sa TRAIN 1 na ito effective January 1, kapag ikaw ay may medical prescription sa gamot ng diabetes, hypertension, at mataas na cholesterol, kailangan less 12% VAT na ang babayaran niyo,” explained Laban Konsyumer President Atty. Vic Dimagiba.

But despite the expected discounts and subsidies offered under the new legislation, the group remains in opposition to its implementation.

Dimagiba claims TRAIN Law as anti-poor because it contributes to the rise of inflation or the spike in prices of basic commodities to include oil products.

Oil players are expected to add at least P2.00 per liter of oil in accordance to the second tranche of excise tax on fuel.

“Ito pong lahat na ito na ginawa ng TRAIN 1, (kung) titingnan ninyo po, mas maraming ginawang perwisyo lalo na doon sa 30% na tinatawag pong mahihirap na consumer dito po sa Pilipinas,” Dimagiba argued.

He also noted that the government still owes part of the fuel subsidy to drivers and operators under the Pantawid Pasada Program.

According to transport group Pasang Masda, around 10% of jeepney operators are yet to receive the P5,000 fuel subsidy.

This is because they are still waiting for the refurbished units to be registered under their respective names.

“For those operators who did not get their card siguro dapat pagbigayan parin natin sila ay mga legitimate operator din na kagaya ko,” said Obet Martin of Pasang Masda.

Meanwhile, the Laban Konsyumer also noted that all 10 million beneficiaries identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will get P300 pesos per month instead of the previous P200.

The group added that they, the beneficiaries, must be given 10% discount when buying the NFA rice as well when riding public transport.

The government earlier announced that it is continuously providing aid to sectors affected by the implementation of the TRAIN Law.

As of this writing, the group’s petition to stop the law’s implementation remained stalled in the Supreme Court (SC). – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

REPASO 2018: Rice, Inflation and Duterte’s TRAIN Law

Marje Pelayo   •   December 31, 2018

 

The Philippines is among countries that highly depends on rice as its staple.

This year, issues surrounding the country’s rice supply and the National Food Authority (NFA) made headlines especially when supply of low-priced rice became scarce in local markets.

The NFA blamed the NFA Council for the shortage of NFA rice in markets citing its disapproval of rice importation despite the NFA’s recommendation in 2017.

While the NFA rice ran scarce, the price of commercial rice skyrocketed.

In Zamboanga, rice prices hit a staggering P70 per kilogram.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) blamed rice traders for manipulating market prices taking advantage of the scarcity of NFA rice.

But Secretary Manny Piñol said rice supply was not scarce.

It’s just that traders were controlling the supply.

In fact, the DA discovered thousands of sacks of rice in a warehouse in Bulacan supposedly delivered to local markets.

The issue prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to return the control over the NFA to the DA and appointed Sec. Piñol as chairman of the NFA Council.

Duterte ordered Piñol to fill the markets with commercial rice.

“The best way to address this problem is, I will fill my inventory. I was mad because it was either half full or half empty. Sabi ko guys, I want the rice up there, touching the ceiling of warehouse now,” President Duterte said.

In August, the delivery of five million sacks of rice imported by the NFA arrived in the country.

But the prolonged days of rain delayed the unloading of the rice shipment.

Reports surfaced that the rice shipment were infested by rice weevils and could be harmful for consumption.

But Sec. Piñol himself proved that weevil infestation was not enough reason to say that the shipments were no longer edible.

This sets this year “Bukbok challenge” among government officials and the Secretary himself ate weevil-infected cooked rice to challenge lawmakers criticizing the DA.

 

Amid speculations of health risks posed by weevils and alleged formalin contamination in galunggong, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol ate cooked weevil-infested rice together with fried galunggong  on live television to allay fears.

“Kanin na may bukbok, pwedeng kainin. I’m walking the talk, kapag sinabi kong kaya kong kainin yung bigas na may bukbok, hugasan lang natin, huwag nating kainin ‘yung bukbok,” Se. Piñol said showing on live television that eating weevil-infested rice is safe.

In November, the DA imposed a suggested retail price on commercial rice and banned the use of fancy brand names.

But the DA expressed concern on the impending approval of the proposed Rice Tarrification Act.

Piñol said the proposed law might remove the supply of NFA rice in markets because the measure will strip the NFA of its importation function and importation of rice will be open even to the private sector.

The NFA’s function will also be limited to buffer stocking and they will only be allowed to buy rice from the local farmers’ yield.

“But one thing is certain, there will be no more P27 rice,” Piñol argued.

But Senate Food and Agriculture Committee chair Senator Cynthia Villar countered Piñol’s statement saying the supply of low-priced rice will remain in local markets.

The price of fish and vegetables also hit significant increase this year due to a series of weather disturbances.

A notable increase was in the price of chili which reached to P1,000 per kilogram.

The DA argued, however,  that the country has enough supply of vegetables but the problem is how they will be delivered to the municipality in need.

In line with this, the DA launched the ‘Tienda Malasakit Stores’ which sell top quality agricultural products at the price almost 50% off.

Also, the DA imposed suggested retail price on several agriculture products to avoid profiteering.

Due to a series of price hikes, the country’s inflation rate shoots up.

Based on the report of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the country’s inflation reached the 3.5 mark in 2017 but soared even higher in October 2018 at 6.7.

This development burdened consumers even more.

“Kahit sa gulay dati makabili ka lang ng P10 marami na. sa ngayon konti nalang ang mabili mo kahit sa P10 halos wala ka nang makain sa sampung piso,” said Quezon City resident Sicel Amadeo.

“Minsan di nalang kami bumibili. Tsaga nalang kami sa bagoong… eto yan lang ho. Totoo po lahat. Tulad nyan walang trabaho minsan. Hindi ko na alam kung saan ako lalapit,” said Laura Bagan also a resident of Quezon City.

Among the reasons for the rising inflation, analysts said, was the increase in oil price in the world market.

This prompted a fare hike of minimum fare in jeepney to P10.00 in Metro Manila, Region 3 and other provinces.

But after a week, the minimum fare was reduced to P9.00 as a result of a slight oil price rollback.

Price cuts on oil products were recorded eight times in eight weeks from October to November but drivers and operators argued that these couldn’t surpass the total increase in oil prices this year.

Also among the main reasons for the rising inflation, consumers alleged, was the implementation of the Duterte administration’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law which the President signed on December 19, 2017.

The measure aims at funding the government’s ‘Build, build, build’ infrastructure projects through imposition of additional taxes.

During the last quarter of the year, the government’s economic managers recommended the implementation of the second tranche of the TRAIN law after the price of oil soared to P42/L.

But the recommendation was later withdrawn after a series of price rollback in oil which dipped by P12/L in total.

The second tranche of excise tax on oil will add P2.00 more per liter.

This prompted the consumer group ‘Laban Konsyumer’ to ask the Supreme Court to suspend the implementation to TRAIN 2 as it will further burden the consumers.

“Pinapabalewala namin ang batas na iyan, sa tingin po namin ito po’y anti-poor. Anti-poor kasi tinaasan ang excise taxes sa fuel at iba pang produkto tulad ng coal sa mga consumer o mga mahihirap na wala namang kakayahan magbayad ng mataas na buwis,” argued Laban Konsyumer Atty. Vic Dimagiba. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Senators fear rise in unemployment if TRAIN 2 pushes through

Marje Pelayo   •   November 9, 2018

FILE PHOTO: A Senate committee hearing

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Several senators have expressed concerns over the possible impacts of the package two of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law being pushed by the Duterte administration.

Under the said proposal, the corporate tax will be gradually reduced to 20 percent from 30 percent.

Tax incentives given to some sectors will also be changed.

Lawmakers fear this might lead to mass layoffs and investment losses when enacted into law.

“We should stay that momentum sa pagbaba po ng inflation before we come up with the new tax measures or tax proposal that would scar the investor or pullout investors from existing companies in the Philippines, because what we don’t want to happen is a perfect storm na mataas ang inflation tapos may loss of jobs,” Senate Majority Leader Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

Zubiri said further study is needed before this bill can be passed.

He added that the measure is not among the senate’s priority agenda when Congress resumes its regular sessions next week.

 “We are appealing to the department of finance that let us study first this measure carefully, we can pass the other measure, TRAIN 3, TRAIN 4 that are not inflationary,” he said.

 The Department of Finance (DOF), however, allays lawmakers’ fears saying the TRAIN 2’s effects are contrary to their concerns.

Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua argued that under the second package, investments and jobs will even grow and higher incentives will be given to firms who will invest in poor provinces.

“What we hope is to encourage registered corporations to get more and better jobs, more efficient and more competitive locate in the countryside, introduce innovation and to invest in agribusiness…kaya yung allegations na Package 2 or Trabaho (bill) will lead to lost of investment , closure of business, job losses and inflationary, sa tingin po namin , based on our proposal ay hindi po totoo,” Chua explained.

The DOF further noted that 645 corporations or 336 sectors have benefited from tax incentives.

Chua added that the administration just wants to level the playing field for all Filipinos and investors.

“At hindi natin alam kung magkano nakuha nila at wala pong libreng incentive, kung may nakinabang tulad ng 0 tax , reduced tax, ibig sabihin may nagbabayad niyan. Normally ang ordinaryong pilipino ang nagbabayad,” he noted.

The DOF believes they will be able to enlighten lawmakers on the provisions of the measure when the senate continues its deliberation in the coming weeks. – Nel Maribojoc

SUCs may opt to charge tuition if TRAIN is suspended – CHED

Marje Pelayo   •   July 20, 2018

 

CHED OIC Prospero De Vera III

PASAY CITY, Philippines – The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) expressed concern over the clamor to suspend the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.

CHED OIC Prospero De Vera III explained that the implementation of the Free Tuition Act was given an initial budget of P40B for school year 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.

To date, the government’s free tuition program supports around 1.3 million student beneficiaries.

De Vera said the agency expects increase in the number of K to 12 graduates next year, estimated at 400,000 students who are potential beneficiaries of the free tuition program.

This is the reason why CHED is asking for an additional P11B budget for the next school year.

However, De Vera said, if the suspension of TRAIN pushes through, CHED is not sure to sustain the funding for the current scholars.

“The computation of that budget in anchored on revenues generated thru the TRAIN Law. So we cannot expand access to education. We cannot increase the budget if TRAIN is suspended,” De Vera said.

The CHED official explained that prior to the enactment of the Free Tuition Act, state universities and colleges (SUCs) depend on tuition and miscellaneous fees to support their respective operational expenses. However, with the proposed suspension of TRAIN, SUCs would be left the hard choice of passing the burden to students. Otherwise, they will not be able to operate.

“We’ll have to go back and allow state universities to charge tuition. You have to allow them to generate their income somewhere else. And the most reliable source of income in charging tuition and miscellaneous fees,” he said.

De Vera said the suspension of TRAIN will not have much impact on the salary of teachers.

Nevertheless, he said the Duterte administration is not keen on stopping the implementation of the TRAIN Law despite the strong push for its suspension.

“There is no way that we will stop TRAIN because the whole program of the government will be affected if our revenue base is affected. That’s why I have come out publicly to support TRAIN because higher education requires a lot of funding from the national government,” De Vera concluded. – Rey Pelayo / Marje Pelayo

 

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