Pia Cayetano seeks 'sweet spot' for Citira bill

MANILA, Philippines – Senate ways and means committee chairperson Pia Cayetano is looking for a "sweet spot" for both foreign investors and the government's economic team in the controversial Corporate Income Tax and Incentive Rationalization Act (Citira) bill.

The bill, certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte, is heavily opposed by ecozone locators and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), on fears that it would take away incentives and negatively affect the country's competitiveness. (READ: 'Noisy naysayers' vs Citira bill proven wrong by numbers, says DOF)

"My goal, to find that sweet space, that sweet spot, that the Filipino people, the Filipino youth, the employees of our future, have something to gain with the investments, with the investors that are bringing their business in the country," Cayetano said on Tuesday, September 17.

Citira seeks to place over a hundred laws pertaining to corporate tax incentives under one playbook, with the Department of Finance stating that perks would only be given to "deserving" companies.

It also aims to gradually lower the country's high corporate income tax rate from 30% to 25%.

While Cayetano dodged questions regarding her stand on the issue, she likened the proposal to love and hinted that aspects of the bill would be retained.

"I have to also say just like love, wala ring forever (there is no forever). But, there is such a thing as long term. But it must also ensure that throughout that process, the parties are in a very happily productive relationship," Cayetano said.

While Cayetano seeks middle ground, PEZA Director General Charito Plaza is showing no signs of changing her position. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Will Duterte's new tax measure kill foreign investments?)

"We cannot afford to lose our gains nor damage the country's reputation with the international community by allowing the changing of our rules in the middle of the game or introducing new laws that apparently negate basic legal doctrines such as non-impairment of contracts, prospectivity in application of laws, and log-rolling legislation," Plaza said in a statement on Tuesday. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.