By Genalyn Kabiling
Filipinos must pay taxes so government could implement programs such as free college tuition program that aim to improve their lives, President Duterte said Wednesday.
The President agreed with the view of Education Secretary Leonor Briones that there was no way to raise funds to address the needs of Filipinos other than taxes.
“I would just tell the people that you know, if you want improvement on anything, practically all aspect of our governance would depend on taxes,” Duterte said during the signing of an agreement between the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and state universities and colleagues on the implementation of the free college program.
According to the President, Briones, former national treasurer, was the “single solitary voice” in the recent Cabinet meeting who stressed the importance of taxes as the lifeblood of the government.
“She said that the people must pay their taxes. They have to pay for the government to work. There is no other way where we can raise the money for the needs of Filipino people except through taxes,” he said.
Duterte acknowledged the government has “many ambitious projects” including the providing free education in state universities and colleges that could only be bankrolled by government revenues.
“Because of the economy is not that good, it’s improving but we still have more miles to go and so sabi niya [and so she said], with this offer of ours, free education for all, halos universal na, people must realize also that they have to pay their taxes,” he said.
Duterte admitted that he was in favor of higher taxes on tobacco, cigarettes and sweetened beverages to boost government revenues needed for vital projects.
“Kung talagang hindi makabayad, wala man tayong magawa doon [If they can’t pay, we can’t do anything about that] but I will go for the sin taxes, I know that’s your favorite. We go for a higher diyan sa sugar,” he said.
The government has already approved the first package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, that reduced the personal income taxes, but imposed higher excise taxes on fuel, cars, and sweetened beverages.
The proposed second TRAIN package, that aims to lower corporate income tax rate and rationalize fiscal incentives, is pending in Congress
The President, meantime, hailed the signing of the memorandum of agreement between CHED and almost 200 tertiary schools to implement the Republic Act No. 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
Duterte cited that the government has made a priority to make quality education affordable and accessible to all.
“The signing of this Memorandum of Agreement between the Commission on Higher Education and almost 200 tertiary academic institutions is a crucial step in helping young Filipinos fullfill their dreams of becoming productive members of our country’s workforce through academic degrees and technical or vocational training,” he said.
He also asked education officials, teachers and other school authorities involve din the effective and efficient implementation of RA 10931 “to do your best” in fulfilling their mandates under the law.
“Free quality tertiary education is a significant step towards further building the capacity of our people, most particularly in improving the lot of the underprivileged and the marginalized Filipinos,” he said.
“Empowering our citizens and building our nation are indeed challenging but both rewarding and a beautiful task. It may be difficult from the start, but the results are, in the end will give our people the chance to lead productive, meaningful and comfortable lives,” he added.
According to CHED commissioner Prospero de Vera III, around 1.3 million college students are expected to benefit from the government’s free tuition and miscellaneous fees program this year.
Of these students, he said 300,000 poor students would be given additional subsidy by the government.