By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV on Wednesday rejected President Rodrigo Duterte’s assertion the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law should not be stopped as it has helped the government distribute subsidies to a lot of poor Filipinos during his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Aquino said the people were waiting for the President to somehow urge Congress to review the administration’s tax reform program but were disappointed to hear him defending it and even pushing lawmakers to immediately pass the second package of the TRAIN Law.
“Kasi ang SONA ang inaadress po yung pangunahing problema ng ating bayan. Ang nabanggit po niya maraming natutulungang mahihirap yung TRAIN 1, at alam naman po natin yung kabaligtaran yung nangyayari (The President is supposed to address the problems hounding the nation during his SONA. What he actually said was that TRAIN 1 is helping a lot of poor Filipinos, when we know that the opposite is actually happening),” Aquino told reporters in an interview.
He said the mere fact that none of the senators have filed a measure seeking approval of the TRAIN 2, is already a “clear signal that nobody wants to take it on.”
“For my part, I cannot move on to TRAIN 2. I’m still concerned with TRAIN 1, because we know a lot of people are already burdened with TRAIN 1. Most Filipinos find this already as a nuisance,” he said.
As such, Aquino said lawmakers should support the measure he filed that seeks to suspend and roll back the excise tax on petroleum products under the TRAIN law.
Under the measure he filed, Aquino sought the excise tax on fuel under the TRAIN law be suspended and rolled back once average inflation rate surpasses the annual inflation target over a three-month period.
“This is a clear way to address that (price increases), kung may iba pang paraan para I address yun pag usapan natin (if there are other ways to address it, then let’s discuss it),” he said.
“Pero kung sasabihin natin magtiis kayo , parang hindi naman yun katanggap tanggap sa taombayan, (But if you are going to say just bear with it, I don’t believe that’s acceptable for the people),” Aquino said.
Aquino said he had already asked Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and the rest of the majority senators to take the measure he filed in consideration, since this was something that was included and voted upon by the senators when they came up with the Senate version of the TRAIN law.
“Napagbotohan na namin ito noon, na may safeguard ang TRAIN based on inflation. Unfortunately, sa final version, tinanggal po it (we voted on it to ensure that TRAIN will have a safeguard based on inflation. Unfortunately, it was removed in the final version),” he said.
“Hinihiling ko lang ho, magkaisa kami, ibalik ang safeguard na ito upang kapag mataas ang inflation, may mekanismo ang gobyerno na pwedeng i-rollback at i-suspend ang pagtaas dito sa ating petroleum products, (My appeal is that we unite and put back that safeguard so that if there is inflation, the government has a mechanism where they can roll back and suspend the increase on prices of petroleum products),” he reiterated.
In his SONA, Duterte refused to budge on the TRAIN law saying “we cannot and should not” suspend its implementation.
Duterte said that through the TRAIN law, the government was able to distribute unconditional cash transfer to at least four million people and will help six million more this year.
“Following the ₱1 discount per liter in gas stations we have started releasing fuel vouchers to public utility jeeps and other valid franchises,” the President said.
He also said the administration has fast-tracked the distribution of affordable rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) to alleviate consumers’ burden.