Honorable Win Gatchalian, Senator of the Republic, voting YES (with reservations) on the measure:
Mr. President, first and foremost I would like to commend the tireless dedication and deep technical knowledge displayed by the members of the Senate during the deliberations on this landmark legislation. For months this esteemed chamber, led by my good friend and seatmate - Senator Sonny Angara, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee - has worked together to scrutinize each and every provision of this complex but immensely impactful bill, line by line. As representatives of the people, it is essential for us to soften the burden of new taxes on underprivileged Filipinos who already have enough struggles to face. In this aspect, I think we have achieved much, such as the increase of the tax exemption cap for low income earners championed by many members of this chamber, this representation included. I am also proud that we were able to simplify tax procedures for SEPs by requiring the filing of tax returns only once per year.
Although I voted to approve this bill, I cannot say that I fully support all of its provisions. With due respect to the proponents of the provision, I must on record my reservations and strong opposition to the imposition of an immense increase in the excise tax on coal which was approved by this chamber.
Mr. President, one of my primary advocacies as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee has been to seek legislative solutions which will decrease electricity costs and result in consumer savings. Unfortunately, as I explained last night, the costs of this tax will be passed on directly to consumers in their monthly electricity bills. This tax will force consumers to pay an additional 10.5 billion pesos for their electricity needs over the next three years. The coal on tax, along with the increased excise taxes on diesel and bunker fuel, is poised to make electricity more expensive at a time when the Philippines already has the most expensive electricity rates in the entire ASEAN region. Our estimates indicate that the increases in electricity rates are not negligible. These higher rates will be felt by Filipinos. I hope that the distinguished members of this chamber will support future legislation to address the rising power costs which are hampering inclusive economic development across the country.
Despite these reservations, however, I am hopeful that the TRAIN Act will achieve its stated objective - to fund the Duterte administration's ambitious infrastructure and socio-economic projects. However, this representation would like to remind the executive branch of government to keep its end of the bargain. The government has promised to roll-out an expanded cash transfer program to shield 10 million impoverished and poverty-vulnerable families from the inflationary effects of this measure. The cash transfer program that was promised must be ready for implementation on Day One of the effectivity of the TRAIN tax package. Additionally, the Senate must use its oversight powers to ensure that the tax reform package is implemented in an equitable manner, so that most underprivileged sectors of our society will not suffer as a result.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Source: Senate of the Philippines