Senate urged to fast-track passage
of tax reform bill for Duterte infra projects

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A tax expert and adviser of the Department of Finance (DOF) has urged senators to fast-track the passage of Senate Bill 1408 or the “Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN)” bill because the expected revenues could fund the infrastructure program of the Duterte administration.

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Rene Diaz, former representative of Nueva Ecija and chairman of the Center for Strategic Initiatives, said he was confident that the Senate would not think twice to support the legislative measure and appealed to their sense of patriotism to pass it immediately so that the government’s development plans could be achieved at the soonest possible time.

“Aside from reducing the burden from the middle class, the majority of Filipino workers, the poor people will benefit more because more opportunities await them like available jobs,” Diaz told a forum in Malate, Manila on Wednesday.

“The majority Senators have enough numbers to pass the bill, so we expect them to pass it without difficulty. Of course, there will be lobbyists from these big companies, but the patriotic spirits of our senators must prevail,” he said.

Asked which sectors would be affected by the tax reform package, Diaz identified the companies engaged in oil, car, and soft drinks, including smugglers and tax evaders.

He said the passage of the TRAIN bill would ease the burden on the official development assistance (ODA) and loans from countries like China, and Japan, among others, that would be used to fund the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

“It is very critical to assure our world creditors that we have money to pay them,” he said.

“Build Build Build” projects mostly involve building railway systems, additional roads, and ports.

“We cannot implement these projects by just borrowing, we need cash money to make it rolling,” said Diaz who, during his stint at the House of Representatives, was the principal author of the Tax Reform Act of 1997, a forerunner to the TRAIN bill and Senate Bill 1408.

Diaz said the Senate must pass bill by October before the two houses of Congress could deliberate on the 2018 budget.

Diaz also urged the DOF to conduct more road shows and media briefings to explain to the public the benefits of the TRAIN bill.

He also asked those active in social media to visit the Facebook account of the DOF where the Duterte tax reform package was explained in detail.

Diaz also urged the DOF to empower the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to have access to the computer system of major retailers to identify where their ships were coming from and where their goods were being delivered.

“In this way, we can track their goods and we will know exactly how to tax them,” he said.

Diaz is also proposing selling the 400-hectare New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City that will net P200 billion in revenue for the government and transferring the detention facility to the 33,000 hectare Port Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

He is also supporting granting tax compromises to tax cheats like smugglers, saying filing cases against them in court would take decades.

Likewise, he is seeking the sale of government-owned lands like Boystown in Marikina City and Mental Hospital in Mandaluyong City, among others.

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