No need for new taxes had BIR collected proper levies from oligarchs – Speaker

MANILA-- House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Friday virtually admitted that there should have been no need for Congress to pass the entire controversial tax reform package, which included a provision that would impose a PHP6 per liter tax on petroleum products, had the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) collected the billions of pesos in tax liabilities of big companies owned by the country's oligarchs.

In a radio interview, the House leader stressed that taxes needed to be properly collected in order to bring in much needed funds for priority government projects.

"Kailangang ayusin talaga itong tax. Ito malinaw na may mapapagkunan ng pondo," Alvarez said.

He said that it is the reason why he is asking the House Committees on Ways and Means and on Good Government to conduct a joint probe on big companies which have tax liabilities, including the allegations that the BIR allegedly reduced the tax liabilities of Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI) for the period 2011 to 2013.

Reports claimed that the tax liability of the giant food and beverage conglomerate have been allegedly reduced to only PHP65.4 million despite the reported assessment reaching PHP29 billion in supposed tax deficiency liabilities.

"Ayun na nga ang sinasabi namin. Iyun pala naman eh bakit hindi na lang kolektahin 'yan at sana konti na lang 'yung kailangan sa tax reform bill na pino-propose ng Department of Finance (DoF)," Alvarez said over dzRH.

Aside from the additional tax on petroleum products, another controversial provision under House Bill (HB) No. 5636, also known as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) that the House of Representatives approved, seeks to impose a PHP10 per liter excise tax on sugar and sweetened beverages (SSBs).

While TRAIN will no longer impose tax on personal income of not over PHP250,000, critics asserted that the bill was anti-poor because the public would shoulder the increase in prices of basic goods and services as a result of additional taxes on fuel and SSBs, among others.

Meanwhile, Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua, who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, has said he would ask the BIR to explain the allegations concerning DMPI.

Alvarez sought an investigation on the matter following the alleged plunder case filed before the Ombudsman against Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay and 17 other BIR officials and personnel in connection with the alleged tax liability reduction of DMPI.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, who chairs the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, as well as Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, president of the Party List Coalition (PLC), also supported Alvarez in calling for an investigation on the matter.

Alvarez said that if the allegations were true, iyung PHP30 billion na iyan ay talagang foul na foul.

Earlier, Del Monte Pacific Ltd. (DMPL), the mother company of DMPI categorically denied the allegations as it presented its "correct and reasonable" audited taxable income during the questioned three-year period.

DMPL said the tax assessments on DMPI presented in news reports were "outrageous" when compared to its actual revenues from 2011 to 2013.

"For 93 years that it has been operating in the Philippines, DMPI has been a loyal corporate citizen and has been diligently paying its taxes," the company said in a statement.

DMPL added that Del Monte Philippines stands ready to fully cooperate in any government inquiry.

For his part, Dulay vowed to make a statement on the matter to answer the allegations against his office.

Source: Philippine News Agency