President Aquino vetoes bills on water districts’ tax condonation, salary adjustment for nurses

President Benigno S. Aquino III has vetoed a bill that seeks to condone unpaid taxes of local water districts, and another bill that seeks to increase the compensation of nurses that might have an impact on the country’s tax collection system and health care.

According to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., the President has informed Congress, through the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, that he has vetoed House Bill No. 3675 / Senate Bill No. 2518, which seeks to remove conditions for the condonation of all unpaid income taxes of Local Water Districts (LWDs), specifically, proof of financial incapacity as determined by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and a program of internal reforms as submitted to Congress.

President Aquino said the bill will remove the laudable intent of Republic Act 10026, which is to grant tax reprieve only to LWDs that are financially incapable and committed to instituting fiscal reforms.

The President also said the bill “sends a message to errant taxpayers that delinquency is acceptable since amnesty or condonation may be given anyway, even without benefit of proper documentation”.

He added that the proposed bill is disadvantageous and can undermine the government’s strict tax collection efforts.

President Aquino also informed both houses of Congress that he vetoed House Bill No. 6411 / Senate Bill No. 2720, which seeks the enactment of a comprehensive nursing law.

In his message, President Aquino noted that the minimum base pay for entry-level nurses has already been increased through Executive Order No. 201, series of 2016, which raised their total guaranteed annual compensation from P228,924 to P344,074, apart from other benefits and allowances they receive, such as under the Magna Carta of Public Health.

The bill, which proposes to further increase the entry-level salary for nurses by four grades, will undermine the existing government salary structure and cause wage distortion, not only among medical and health care practitioners but also other professionals in the government service, the President said.

Granting such increase will place the salaries of nurses over and above their other similarly situated counterparts, such as optometrists and dentists, he said.

The President also said the proposed increase “seemingly disregards the financial capacity of most local government hospitals” and also affects the financial viability of private hospitals and non-government health institutions, and could lead to the downsizing of hospital personnel and consequent increase in health care costs. PND (as)