Recto fears lack of fund may derail nat’l ID system 2020 implementation

Robie de Guzman   •   November 19, 2019   •   554

Senator Ralph Recto (File)

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday expressed fears that the implementation of the national identification system next year might be derailed due to lack of funds.

In a statement, Recto disclosed that no funding has been allocated for the project in the “programmed portion” of the proposed national budget for next year.

“For 2020, there is zero funding for the project in the “programmed portion” of the proposed national budget,” he said.

“What is provided is a P2.4 billion ‘unprogrammed appropriation,’ which, at best, is a tentative allocation dependent if new loans or revenues can be raised,” he added.

Should the P2.4 billion materialize, the senator said only less than half of the total target number of Filipinos or 6.3 million will be registered in the system for 2020.

“But even if the P2.4 billion will materialize, it is only about 42 percent of what is needed to fully meet the project’s objectives and deliverables next year,” Recto said. “So instead of 14 million Filipinos, less than half, or 6.3 million, will be registered in 2020.”

The lawmaker fears this will trigger a domino effect and leave the project’s timetable in shambles.

“The original plan is to enroll 14 million in 2020; 52 million in 2021, including 5 million overseas Filipinos; and 44 million local residents plus 5 million overseas Filipinos in 2022,” he said.

According to Recto, the project’s goal by 2022 is to register 110 million Filipinos and resident aliens, and around 10 million Filipinos abroad in what is officially called the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys).

“To meet this deadline, 4.3 million registrants must be processed every month by the 5,000 registration kits placed in mobile and fixed registration centers,” he said. “But if the critical purchases in the early stage of implementation will not push through for budget lack, then future registration quotas will not be met.”

Recto recalled that when Congress was pressed to pass the national ID law, it was given assurance that funds were available for its implementation.

“That was two years ago when we passed the law certified as urgent by the Palace. During the debates then, we were told that the plan was to cover 100 million people in 4 years,” he said.

“But it now appears that there’s a wide gap between intent and implementation. The proof has always been in the funding. And in the case of the national ID project, it is wanting,” he added.

The PhilSys Act, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018, seeks to interconnect all government IDs in a single national identification system.

Known as the Phil-ID, it will contain the card holder’s unique PhilSys number, full name as well as facial image, sex, date of birth, blood type, and address. It will also contain the cardholder’s biometric information and iris scan for added security.

Recto asks gov’t to ease transport restrictions, provide more options for workers

Robie de Guzman   •   June 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has urged the government to relax its restrictions on public transportation to serve commuters during the community quarantine.

“You want to restart the economy? Then let PUVs (public utility vehicles) restart their engines,” he said in a statement on Monday.

“There are three important T’s today: tests, trabaho, transportasyon. Screening for coronavirus is no longer a requisite for returning to work. But without a ride, there is no work. And no work, no pay,” he added.

Recto issued the statement a week after a general community quarantine (GCQ) took effect in Metro Manila which allowed more businesses to reopen and more employees to return to their work.

Public transportation operations were also allowed but only with limited routes and capacity to observe physical distancing and other health measures.

“Allowing workplaces to open without providing the people with the means to go there is like telling the President he can now cross the Pasig River from his residence to his office for as long he does not ride any boats,” he said.

“That, today, is the sink-or-swim situation for the nation’s breadwinners,” he added.

Recto appealed to the government to ease the “brutal” lack of transportation by allowing  husband-and-wife to ride a motorcycle in tandem.

“If they share the same bed at night, why can’t they ride a bike together during the day?” he asked.

He also believes that jeepney and UV drivers should be allowed to ply the roads again, subject to health conditions, and called on the government to partly subsidize the seats they are compelled to keep vacant since they are only allowed to operate under reduced capacity.

“And more buses, please, for they are the tickets out of temporary unemployment,” he said.

Recto also said that the establishment of safe bike lanes and mass distribution of bicycles to workers should also be accelerated.

“The Senate-approved bill reauthorizing the Bayanihan Act earmarks P17 billion for bike lanes, sidewalks, bicycles and other things which form the foundation of a national bicycle infrastructure. That amount includes test runs for a “service contracting scheme” for PUVs,” he said.

Other senators have also called on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to open more bus routes to alleviate the travel woes of commuters.

The DOTr earlier said it has opened 15 rationalized bus routes in Metro Manila and nearby areas. This is half of the 31 routes that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board planned to open amid the quarantine from the previous 96 routes covering 4,600 buses.

The DOTr also appealed for public understanding as it plans to resume public transport gradually and in two phases to prevent the possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Recto confident Duterte will support motorcycle taxi bill

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has expressed confidence that President Rodrigo Duterte will sign into law the proposed Motorcycle Taxi Bill, which seeks to lift the 56-year ban on two-wheelers as a public utility vehicle (PUV).

In his speech sponsoring Senate Bill No. 1341 Tuesday — which proposes to legalize motorcycle taxis such as Angkas, JoyRide and MoveIt — Recto referred to Duterte’s fondness for motorcycles, saying this had shown the motorbike as a safe ride.

“The motorbike is the ride of choice of the President,” he said.

“So, what is good for the president must be good for the ordinary citizen,” he added, before laying down the stringent conditions on how to make for-hire motorcycles “safe for the driver, for the passenger, and for the other vehicles on the road.”

The measure seeks to amend Republic Act 4136 or the Land Transportation and Tariff Code, which prohibits the use of motorcycles as public transport.

The proposal defines motorcycles-for-hire as any two-wheeled motor vehicle registered with the Land Transportation Office, which transports passengers and goods on a for-hire basis, and which may utilize online ride-hailing or pre-arranged transportation platforms.

The bill states that the motorcycle should weigh less than 1,000 kilograms, can travel faster than 50 kilometers per hour, has a minimum engine displacement of 125 cubic centimeters, and a backbone-type built.

Along with the vehicle registration, the motorcycles for hire will also be required to secure a certificate of public convenience or a special permit issued by the LTFRB.

The measure also states that motorcycle taxis fall under a classification of public utility automobiles along with public utility trucks, taxis and auto-calesas, garage automobiles, hire trucks and trucks owned by contractor and customs brokers and customs agents.

Recto urged his fellow legislators to pass the bill.

The Senate committees on public services and the local government earlier approved a committee report allowing the use of motorcycle taxis as a form of public transport in the country.

Bill seeking to impose clear tax rates for POGOs pushed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   February 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday said he has filed a bill seeking to impose a 30 percent income tax and five percent franchise tax on Philippine offshore online gaming operations (POGOs).

In a statement, Recto said he recently filed Senate Bill No. 1295 proposing the establishment of a tax regime for POGOs which are duly licensed and authorized by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Despite the fact that POGO is a growing industry in the Philippines, the lawmaker said the nature of its business activity creates confusion in the enforcement of the country’s existing laws.

Recto said that under PAGCOR rules and regulations on POGO operations, licenses are issued to Filipino-based or foreign-based operators. Service providers that form part of the components of the POGO operations such as gaming software provider, business outsourcing provider and content streaming provider are likewise required to secure a license.

“Both Philippine-based and foreign-based POGO operators are taxable on their income from gaming operations and other related services,” he said.

“Establishing the tax regime of POGOs and incorporating the same in the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1997, as amended, is necessary to remove any doubt and avoid the confusion as to whether or not POGOs are taxable in our jurisdiction,” he added.

Under the bill, licensed Philippine-based POGOs, local gaming agents and service providers shall be subjected to a 30-percent income tax, the taxable amount will be derived in the preceding taxable year from all sources within and outside of the Philippines.

Foreign-based POGOs shall also be subjected to a 30-percent income tax based on their gross income derived from game offerings or facilities located within the Philippines.

On top of the 30-percent income tax, Recto’s bill also proposed the imposition of a five-percent franchise tax on all gross receipts derived from gaming operations of both Philippine and foreign-based POGO operators.

The proposal is pending before the Senate ways and means committee.

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