PROPOSED TAX REFORM SHOULD FUND FREE COLLEGE, BETTER PUBLIC TRANSPORT, PHILHEALTH EXPANSION -ANGARA

Senator Sonny Angara wants the expected revenue gain from the proposed tax reform measure to go to specific projects and programs including the funding of the free college law, the expansion of free dialysis coverage, and the improvement of public transportation system.

The Department of Finance (DOF) estimated that the government can collect P134 billion during the first year of implementation of the proposed tax reform.

Angara has earlier said that the earmarking provision under House Bill 5636 is "too general", wherein it states that 60 percent of the yearly incremental revenues of the excise tax on oil "shall be allocated proportionally, based on existing budget allocation, for infrastructure, health, education, housing and social protection expenditures."

"We want to make this tax reform measure complete and more acceptable to the public by specifying in the bill where the revenues will go. Gawin nating mas klaro kung paano makikinabang ang taumbayan sa panukalang repormang ito. Sa ganitong paraan, mas mauunawaan lalo na ng ating pinakamahihirap na kababayan, kung paano sila matutulungan nito," said Angara, chairman of the ways and means committee.

The Commission on Higher Education said the government needs about P20 billion to implement the free college law-P16.8 billion will go to state and local universities and colleges, and P3 billion for tech-voc institutions.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the figure may reach P50 billion to fund the Tertiary Education Subsidy that will strengthen the government's student financial assistance programs.

"Kakapasa lamang po ng free college law at sabi nga ng ating economic managers, hirap silang humanap ng pondo para dito. Kaya mainam po sana na ang bagong buwis na makokolekto ay mapunta sa libreng edukasyon upang masustena ang implementasyon nito," said Angara, one of the authors of the free college law.

Angara has also stressed that incremental revenues of the proposed increase in the excise tax of automobiles, which is estimated at P14 billion, should be specifically allocated to projects that would improve the country's public transport system especially the LRT and MRT.

Meanwhile, the senator said part of the incremental revenues of the proposed excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, estimated at P47 billion, should go to Philhealth to expand the beneficiaries of its dialysis package.

The PhilHealth estimates that the government spends about P8 billion annually for hemodialysis to treat diabetes and hypertension for indigent patients.

"Sa dagdag na pondo na ito, hindi lamang indigent patients kundi pati mga ordinaryong Pilipino ay maaari nang makinabang sa libreng dialysis," he said.

The DOF and DBM said they are amenable to earmark the revenues to specific infrastructure projects and social protection programs as long as the earmarking will be provided with a sunset provision or for a limited period only to ensure that such infrastructure projects will be funded and completed on time.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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