Duterte meets with senators on tax agenda
MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte met with legislators over dinner Monday night to push for his administration’s tax reform agenda, several senators said Tuesday.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte’s defeated running mate in the last elections, led the group of seven senators that met with the President and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez at Malacañang for the tax talk.
“We had a dinner briefing, and the main topic was tax reform. [We talked about] the whole package, from personal and corporate tax, rationalizing exemptions, Value added tax, estate tax, (up to) tax for sugar products,” said Cayetano when reached by phone.
He said the finance chief did most of the talking.
“It’s for long-term reform. We want to shift the country to one driven by investments rather than one driven by consumption,” said the senator.
Cayetano brought to the meeting his group of colleagues who share similar advocacies: Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, Senators Cynthia Villar, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Richard Gordon and Joel Villanueva.
“It was really a ‘getting to know you’ meeting,” said Cayetano.
“We really meet as an advocacy group,” he said of his circle.
Curiously, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III was not part of the meeting. While both the President’s allies, Pimentel and Cayetano had crossed paths on the road to the Senate presidency. The former prevailed with the support of majority of his Senate colleagues.
For Gordon, the night was all about the administration getting the senators’ support for its tax reform agenda.
“They were laying the agenda. They did not even say help us. I made some comments on tax amnesty, comments on how we can better collect the taxes,” Gordon said in an interview.
Recto, meanwhile, said he was called “to provide insight on the tax reform program.” The lawmaker is among senators who have filed several bills relating to tax reform.
The Senate website showed 84 pending tax-related measures in the 17th Congress, among them bills to cut tax rates for individuals and corporations, estate tax and labor sector tax reform.
“Reform proposals are very ambitious. My advise is to temper tax increases. No need to shock the system with huge increases but to do it bit by bit or little by little over a longer period of time,” said Recto. SFM
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