Senators' election plans bog down Trabaho bill – think tank

MANILA, Philippines – A think tank urged the passage of the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-quality Opportunities (Trabaho) bill, but feared that politicians vying for posts in the 2019 elections may distance themselves from the measure.

Jo-Ann Diosana of the Action for Economic Reforms (AER) said in a press briefing on Monday, October 8, that while there may still be 27 regular session days for deliberations and passage of the bill, session breaks and lawmakers' desire for positive public perception will come into play.

Tax measures have been generally a touchy matter as it is associated with the rising cost of goods and might become a hurdle for candidates. 

AJ Montesa of AER clarified that the Trabaho bill is not another round of excise taxes, but would “actually lower the corporate income tax (CIT) rate and make the grant of fiscal incentives fairer and more accountable.”

“Lowering the CIT rate will help businesses reduce costs and over 90,000 small and medium enterprises will benefit,” Montesa added.

Ironically, the Trabaho bill is currently being associated with job losses despite assurances from the Department of Finance (DOF) that it will lead to growth in priority sectors. (Rappler Talk: Dissecting the Trabaho bill)

Diosana zeroed in on Senate ways and means committee chair Juan Edgardo Angara, who is expected to run for reelection

Angara previously said the Senate would not proceed with the deliberations “unless the government can present definitive data on the impact on jobs.”

Diosana said the senator’s lukewarm take on the proposal was “understandable,” but urged senators to still pass the measure. (#AskTheTaxWhiz: What does the Trabaho bill offer?)

“If he’s scared of being attached [to the negative perceptions on the bill], then maybe he could be given a graceful exit not to lead it because we understand his position,” Diosana said.

She said Angara has the option of giving it to another senator or a subcommittee, but said delaying the Trabaho bill “is not an option.”

There are 6 other reelectionist senators in 2019.

AER underscored that the non-passage of the bill would only “prolong the uncertainty” within the business community. 

The group also said the measure should be passed before the elections, as its passage in the next Congress will be more unlikely as political capital is expected to dwindle. – 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.

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