By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Sunday warned state economic managers that passage of the second tranche of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) would be derailed if they do not provide lawmakers with accurate information as they did when they pushed for the first package of the tax reform program.
Ejercito said he is personally unconvinced that the TRAIN 2 would hurdle Senate nod especially if the Department of Finance (DOF) and other government financial institutions refuse to be upfront about the possible repercussions of the measure in their upcoming discussions.
“I will not even think about considering the TRAIN 2 package unless I get clear guarantees from our economic managers that this measure will not result in more hardships for the Filipino people,” Ejercito said when sought to comment on the government proposal.
‘This means that government economists need to provide us with accurate and well-studied data and, more importantly, exhibit complete transparency and honesty,” Ejercito said.
“TRAIN 2 will derail if they feed us with the wrong information and engage in deception as they did when we were discussing TRAIN 1,” he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier admitted senators are now wary of supporting the measure after economists erred in their assessment of the impact of TRAIN on inflation.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said no senator is keen on taking on the measure as no senator intends to file a measure on TRAIN 2.
Ejercito, however, said he might support the DOF proposal of pushing for increased taxes on tobacco and alcohol products. Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon also voiced his support on higher sin tax as well as passing the measure that seeks to rationalize fiscal incentives given to businesses.
“Yes, I will definitely push for tobacco tax especially as a source of fund for Universal Healthcare Program,” Ejercito said..
“It will now be a revenue as well as a health measure,” said the chair of the Senate committee on health and demography.
Ejercito said increasing tax provisions on cigarettes and liquors and rationalizing fiscal iincentives are both sound tax measures that warrant Congress scrutiny.
“Yes, that is the proper direction for improvement of revenue collection,” he said.
“Instead of raising taxes, I would rather that we make tax collection more efficient. Raising taxes is the lazy way to raise revenues,” Ejercito added.