Photo by Cleverlyn Mayuga
Text by Kim Jem Muaña
Despite experts’ emphasis on its importance, the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman labor sector contended some provisions on the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill proposed by the Department of Finance (DOF).
TRAIN bill aims to reform the 20-year-old tax system. Under the DOF proposal, 99% of personal income taxpayers will be paying lower tax.
DOF Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresa Habitan talked about the tax reform bill as a priority of the Duterte administration in the Kapekonomiya forum held in the UP School of Economics last Thursday.
“The framework of the TRAIN really is an aspiration to give back money to the people, [specifically] those who are considered middle income groups,” she said.
Organized by UP School of Economics Student Council and UP Economics Towards Consciousness, Kapekonomiya was held to “inform students about the proposed TRAIN bill, give different perspectives on this proposed tax reform and give an opportunity for our audience to come up with their own stand/opinion on the bill given,” according to Fiona Layson, convenor of Kapekonomiya.
However, the labor sector questioned the goals and implications of the said bill.
National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA) Executive Director Kristina David said, “Noon pa, may problema na iyan kasi kinakargo ng mamamayang mahihirap ang mga taxes ng malalaking kompanya, diba, naipapasa lang naman iyan sa atin eh.”
National Executive Vice President of All UP Workers’ Union (AUPWU) Connie Marquina also stated that increase in tax collection would not necessarily mean well until wages [for government employees] have not increased to strike the balance.
Oil Excise Tax
Additionally,TRAIN also aims to increase excise tax on petroleum products and luxury cars.
According to the DOF proposal, oil prices will gradually increase by six pesos for three years. It will target the wealthiest citizens since the highest 10% taxpayers consume 51% of oil consumption.
“Kapag tumaas ang langis, lahat tataas. Ultimong asin tataas, kasi lahat yan gumagamit ng oil, pagtransport,” Marquina said.
David further stressed that oil excise tax increase would attack the livelihood of fishermen and farmers due to the high price of crude oil which fuels transportation costs essential to their source of income.
“Yung product nila to the market, higit sa doble ang transportation cost nila,” she added.
DOF adapted to their proposal the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program where jeepney units will be phased out and be replaced with electrically-powered jeepney engines or e-jeep.
Ikot jeepney driver Edwin Dela Cruz, 37, said that this program under the TRAIN bill will also be another burden to jeepney drivers.
“Kung kunwari, [five years rent to own] itong hawak ko, tapos wala pa sa kalahati yung naibabayad ko rito, bibigyan na naman nila ako ng panibagong utang. May utang na ako sa taong pinagkuhaan nito, tapos may utang pa ako sa gobyerno,” Dela Cruz said.
“Bago ka makapag-e-jeep dito, … hindi ko alam kung paano tatakbo ang e-jeep. Hindi pa nakarating sa kabilang kanto, wala na yung baterya [dahil sa traffic]…,” Marquina added.
According to the DOF website, PUV modernization, Pantawid Pasada and other programs were added by the department to mitigate the effects of the increase in oil excise tax.
Habitan said that jeepney passengers are exposed to danger with the old structure of the jeepneys.
“Kailangan natin ng PUV modernization. Kaya lang, maraming jeepney driver, mga operator, nagra-rally. Nagiistrike, diba? Ayaw nila ng pagbabago. And one wonders why they do not want to change,” Habitan said.
However, as direct stakeholders, jeepney drivers perceive the issue differently.
“Di naman pagbabago kasi gusto nila eh. Hindi naman pagbabago eh. Gusto nila yung electric agad. Mahirap naman kasi yung sinasabi nilang electric,” said Dela Cruz, who has been driving the Ikot route around the campus for almost 20 years now.
David agreed with the need for a tax reform but questioned its implementation. Whether it is progressive or not, she said, should be a big determining factor.
“Kailangan muna nilang siguruhin na ang basic necessity ay naibigay ng gobyerno bago sila magtaas.” Marquina said.