DBM, DoH, DepEd urge Congress to pass ‘pro-poor’ tax reform bill

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OFFICIALS of the executive branch are making an appeal for legislators to approve the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) as a pro-poor measure aimed at enlarging spending on infrastructure and human capital development.

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Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno is a lead supporter of the CTRP. The tax package merits support since it will allow the administration to increase spending on health and education, and enhance “social protection” for the poorest of the poor while placing more money in the pocket of “99 percent” of the population, the Cabinet official noted.

Health Undersecretary Lilibeth David said Package 1 of the CTRP is a requisite to permit the Duterte administration to increase its health care budget, which is “one of the lowest among ASEAN countries.”

Government needs to intervene so that health care is inclusive, which can be a reality once the CTRP is in place, said David.

Education Assistant Secretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said education is a key beneficiary of the CTRP. The administration is mandated under the law to give education its highest priority.

Malaluan claimed there are “some individuals who, in the name of protecting the poor, mangle the CTRP and cherry pick on those that are popular because of the tax relief.”

It is crucial to pass the tax package, especially now that several cost drivers have made it even more imperative to spend more on education, he said.

The cost drivers include the projected increase in elementary and high school enrollees under the K-12 curriculum, and upgrading learning aids with modern technological tools, as well as strengthening technical-vocational education under the K-12 and meeting the rising rehabilitation expenses for school buildings affected by climate change.

Budget Director Rolando Toledo said the pro-health provisions of the proposed measure will help reduce consumption of products that cause disease and disability, particularly the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
David, Malaluan and Toledo spoke during the two-day “Open Government Dialogues” at the PICC sponsored by the DBM, DoF, USAid and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines.

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