Speaker Cayetano defends additional P1.6B in HOR proposed budget

Marje Pelayo   •   September 23, 2019   •   1677

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano

MANILA, Philippines – Critics have been questioning the P1.6B budget additional budget for the House of Representatives (HOR) on top of the proposed P14B in the 2020 National Budget.

According to reports, the said additional amount will be added to the budget of all eight deputy speakers of the HOR.

But House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano clarified that such reports were fake.

“They want to remove changes from the fact that we had a very good budget process,” Cayetano said.

The House Speaker added that the big chunk of the additional P1.6B budget will be used for various projects and only a little portion will be added to the deputy speaker’s fund.

“It’s for enhancing our capability (in) research including the congressional budget and planning office,” Cayetano explained.

“It’s also to meet the requirements pag pinasa natin yung bagong (once we pass the) salary standardization law,” he added.

In addition, Cayetano said they are planning to create new congressional committees to which part of the additional amount will be utilized.

Likewise, they are planning to make enhancements in the facilities of HOR to highlight the features of the regions each HOR member represents.

Meanwhile, about P10B budget is expected to be added in the proposed 2020 National Budget.

The said amount will be used to procure palay which will amount to P3B; additional fund in the Department of Education’s (DepEd) implementation of the K12 program; additional budget for sports in relation to the upcoming Paragames and Tokyo Olympics; and to fund programs for protected areas in the Philippines.

The additional budget will be sourced from the aborted Barangay Elections and the Right of Way Funds. – MNP (with details from Vincent Arboleda)

House approves bill imposing taxes on digital transactions

Marje Pelayo   •   September 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers in the House of Representatives (HOR) approved on third and final reading a proposed measure imposing a 12% value-added tax (VAT) on all digital transactions in the country.

With 167 ‘yes’, six ‘no’ and one abstention, the lawmakers approved House Bill 7425 which seeks to amend Section 105 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC).

The proposed measure hopes to impose taxes on digital service providers that operate through online platforms to generate new sources of funds for the country’s COVID-19 response.

The proposed bill seeks to clarify the imposition of VAT on online advertisement services, digital services in exchange for a regular subscription fee, and supply of other electronic and online services that can be delivered through the Internet.

One of the principal authors of the bill, Albay Representative Joey Salceda, stressed that the bill seeks to require foreign corporations selling digital services to pay for and impose VAT on their services.

The proposed bill specifically refers to digital services as mobile applications, video games and online games, and webcasts and webinars as well as online licensing or software, updates and add-ons, website filters and firewalls.

It also addresses digital content such as music, videos, graphics and the likes; search engine services; social networks; online training as well as database and hosting.

“We have now clarified that digital services and the goods and services traded through digital service providers should generally be subject to VAT. This is just a matter of common tax sense,” Salceda said.

Meanwhile, the lawmaker guaranteed exemptions for small businesses or those having sales below P3 million and a sole proprietor with a net income of P250,000 and lower.

“So, the small Facebook online seller will not be taxed. I guarantee you,” he said.

Books and other printed materials being sold online will also be exempted from VAT in the proposed bill.

House to probe OCTA Research Group’s credentials, qualifications

Marje Pelayo   •   August 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is launching an investigation into OCTA Research Philippines “to ascertain the credentials and background” of its members.

As an independent research group, the OCTA Team has gained media mileage for its projections and warnings about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Five lawmakers filed a resolution for the inquiry specifically to seek a probe on the group’s “qualifications, research methodologies, partnerships and composition.”

The five lawmakers are namely Deputy Speakers Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon Partylist), Kristine Singson-Meehan (Ilocos Sur, 2nd District), and Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA Partylist); Deputy Minority Leader Stella Luz Quimbo (Marikina, 2nd District), and Rep. Jesus “Bong” Suntay (Quezon City, 4th District).

Since March 2020, the group has been making projections about the surges of COVID-19 cases in the country. Some projections almost hit the mark, with the latest one pushing for a ‘circuit breaker’ or hard lockdown.

The lawmakers cited netizens flagging the group as an alarmist. Even the Department of Health (DOH) and a member of the government’s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 has advised the group to “apply circumspection in making pandemic-related statements, in order to minimize public panic.”

The writers of the resolution pointed out that, “There is a public health and public policy need to ensure the safety and security of the population during this pandemic, and that information being distributed is correct and is not irresponsibly and erroneously published.”

They also underscored the need to “validate the connection between OCTA Research and the University of the Philippines System, as the former publicized a partnership which the latter seemingly denied.”

Based on their website, OCTA describes itself as a “polling, research and consulting firm” that provides “comprehensive, holistic, accurate, rigorous, and insightful data analysis to help our clients in government, the private sector and the NGO community.”

It further indicates that OCTA specializes in public opinion research, qualitative and quantitative research, policy research and advocacy, and training and capacity building.

House suspends sessions during ECQ

Marje Pelayo   •   August 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives announced that lawmakers will not hold plenary sessions once Metro Manila is placed under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from August 6 to 20.

The suspension of the House session will begin on Thursday (August 5), as directed by House Speaker Allan Velasco through a memorandum issued by House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza.

On Wednesday (August 4), sessions will be from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

The House leadership cited the “heightened restrictions being imposed due to the surge of COVID-19 cases, and for the health and safety of our House members and employees” in issuing a memo.

Velasco said such measures are necessary as authorities try to contain a fast-spreading outbreak of the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant in Metro Manila.

“The threat of this Delta variant is real, as evidenced by the surge in cases in certain regions around the world,” Velasco said.

“By suspending regular office work and other preventive measures, we hope to contribute to the government’s effort in preventing a surge of infection that could possibly put our health care system in serious jeopardy,” the House chief added.

During the ECQ period, the following shall be strictly observed:

* Plenary session shall be suspended
* All meetings shall be held via videoconferencing only
* Only Secretariat personnel with extremely essential tasks shall be allowed to report physically to the office
* All congressional offices shall be closed
* Antigen testing shall be made available for those reporting physically for work
* Should there be available vaccines, vaccination shall proceed and concerned individuals shall be notified accordingly
* Offices of attached agencies are requested to adopt a lean workforce

Meanwhile, the House Legislative Security Bureau has been tasked to strictly implement the provisions contained in the memo.

The House Speaker assured the public that these measures will not prevent the chamber from performing its task of crafting laws that will help the country deal with the ongoing pandemic.

“Vital measures can still be tackled as committee hearings will still be held via remote,” he said.

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