The administration will continue implementing the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law despite calls to suspend it as the law has already benefited the country, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
“I applaud Congress for the timely passage of the TRAIN law. You have made funds available to build better roads and bridges, and improve health and education, and strengthen our safety and security,” President Duterte said.
“Some have incorrectly blamed our efforts toward a fairer tax system for all the price increases in the past months, and some irresponsibly suggesting to stop TRAIN’s implementation. We cannot and should not. We need this for sustainable growth that leaves no Filipino behind,” he added.
He pointed out that TRAIN is already helping poor families and senior citizens cope with rising prices, adding that the government has distributed unconditional cash transfers to four million people, and will help six million more this year.
Following the one-peso discount per liter in gas stations, the government has also started releasing fuel vouchers to public utility jeeps and other valid franchises, he added.
“Furthermore, the government has fast-tracked the distribution of NFA rice to provide affordable rice for all” he said.
This year, the government is providing P149 billion worth of subsidies to the poor and vulnerable. Next year, the amount will be increased to P169 billion, he noted.
At the same time, the Chief Executive asked businesses to cooperate with the administration in charging a fair price for the public. To help stabilize rice prices, he warned hoarders and cartels to stop their illegal activities.
“I now ask all the rice hoarders, cartels and their protectors, you know that I know who you are: stop messing with the people. I hate to… Power sometimes is not a good thing. But I hope I will not have to use it against you,” he said.
The President also issued a stern warning to the mining industry, asking it to spare the environment and not to compromise the country’s resources. He said the mining companies must repair what they have mismanaged.
“Try to change [your] management radically because, this time, you will have restrictive policies. The prohibition of open pit mining is one. It is destroying my country. It is destroying the environment. It will destroy the world of tomorrow for our children,” he said.
‘Drug war is not over’
Meanwhile, the President also vowed to pursue the government’s war against illegal drugs despite criticisms from some groups.
“The war against illegal drugs is far from over. Where before, the war resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs worth millions of pesos, today, they run [into] billions in peso value… This is why the illegal drugs war will not be sidelined. Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began,” he said.
“If you think that I can be dissuaded from continuing this fight because of [your] demonstrations, your protests, which I find, by the way, misdirected, then you got it all wrong,” he added, referring to human rights advocates and church leaders.
“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives. The lives of our youth are being wasted and families are destroyed, and all because of the chemicals called shabu, cocaine, cannabis, and heroine,” he said. ###PND