Solon calls for social protection as inflation hits record high

MANILA The chairman of the House of Representatives' ways and means committee on Tuesday called on concerned government agencies to hasten the implementation of social benefits included in the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law as the country's inflation hit a fresh five-year high in May.

Government data released Tuesday showed that headline inflation in May rose to 4.6 percent, slightly higher than April's rate of 4.5 percent but generally lower than market expectation.

Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua said the social benefits card, unconditional cash transfers, and the fuel vouchers are among the social mitigation measures in the tax reform law that would significantly help the situation of "struggling" Filipinos.

"The effects of price increases are more pronounced on those who have less income. They are the families who can barely get by and urgently need help from government," Cua said.

Congress has ensured that the social mitigation measures are funded in the 2018 national budget, he said, noting that some PHP25 billion has been allocated for unconditional cash transfer, while close to PHP900 million has been set aside for fuel vouchers.

Under the TRAIN law, the government will implement the Pantawid Pasada Program or a social assistance project for commuters and public transport, and the jeepney modernization program to ease the impact of the oil excise tax increases on commuters and the land transport sector.

The TRAIN also provides additional unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) to low-income earners amounting to PHP2,400 for 2018 and PHP3,600 for 2019 and 2020.

"During the deliberations for TRAIN, the economic managers gave Congress their assurance that programs will be in place to help Filipinos cope with rising commodity prices," Cua said.

He said his committee would set a roundtable discussion with the implementing agencies to discuss the delays and "come up with a way forward."

For his part, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said the proposed subsidies under the TRAIN law are not enough to meet the average daily needs of poor families, who are suffering from the impact of the law.

I would rather that we review the law and repeal the provisions on excise taxes on fuel, Baguilat said.

He said improving revenue collection efficiency and luxury taxes are better options to help fund the Build, Build, Build program.

Meanwhile, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said the "right move" would be to stop the implementation of the TRAIN law.

"It's the poor who suffers, the informal sector workers and marginalized farmers and fisher folks that bear the impact of rising prices of commodities, especially now when school opens," Villarin said.

But in a press briefing Tuesday, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said the increase in price pressures last month is mainly attributed to higher prices of fish due to declining fish catch; meat, due to higher cost of feeds; fuel, because of rising prices of international crude oil; and rice, because of market panic.

Share of the TRAIN law in May's inflation has remained at 0.4 percentage points, which means that for every PHP1 increase in prices of goods and services, the tax reform only contributed 9 centavos to the price hike.

Edillon said price pressure is expected to ease in the coming months as global oil prices are expected to decline. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency