Govt to implement infra projects

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The government will continue to implement major infrastructure projects even if Congress will not pass the administration’s tax reform bill, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Wednesday.

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REFORM ADVOCATE Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua, chief economist of the Department of Finance, speaks during a congressional hearing on the Duterte administration’s tax reform package. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

The tax measure is expected to generate P130 billion in revenues.

“None of the majority projects will be sacrificed. In such an event, the implementation of the projects will continue because there will be mitigating measures. After all, that is just P100 billion of the P3.8 trillion proposed budget,” Diokno said.

Among the big-ticket infrastructure projects in the pipeline are 200 bypass roads, train line from Tutuban to Malolos, Bulacan, train line from Clark Airport to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, a subway to be jointly funded by Japan, a bridge from Matnog, Sorsogon to Leyte and a bridge from Leyte to Surigao.

“If we would wait for the money [from tax reform], the projects will not be finished or half-finished. A half-finished projects is useless, a waste of money,” Diokno said.

The Budget chief however expressed hopes that the Senate will pass the measure that seeks to hike taxes on fuel, sweetened beverages and socialized housing.

“We are optimistic that it will pass by the end of the year. We can’t go on complaining that there’s traffic jam, there’s lack of healthcare, and yet we do not want to pay more taxes,” Diokno said.

He explained that minimum wage earners, who are already exempted from paying income taxes, will benefit from additional taxes since the increase in taxes will fund education, healthcare and the conditional cash transfer program that grants each poor family P500 for health and nutrition expenses and P300 for each child in elementary school and P500 for those in high school on a monthly basis.

The proposed 2018 budget allocates P89.4 billion for the CCT.

If the tax bill is approved, an additional P25.7 billion will be earmarked for CCT, which would enable the government to increase the CCT benefits by P200 a month per household.

“Even if you raise fuel taxes by P6 per liter [under the proposed Tax Reform bill], the public won’t feel it,” Diokno said.

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