Press Briefing

Press Briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque with Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez, DOF-Strategy, Economics, and Results Group (SERG) Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua and DOF-Revenue Operations Group (ROG) Undersecretary Antonette Tionko

 

ROCKY IGNACIO/PTV: Good morning Malacañang Press Corps and Guests, welcome sa Press Briefing ni Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. Good morning, sir.

SEC. ROQUE: Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat. Magandang Lunes ng umaga.

Well alinsunod po sa ating pangako noong isang linggo na tayo po ay tutulong na ipahatig sa taumbayan ang tunay na mabuting balita sang-ayon dito sa TRAIN, eh naimbitahan po natin ngayon ang ating Secretary of Finance, si Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III. At kasama po niya ngayon ang kaniyang mga Undersecretary na si Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua and Undersecretary Antoinette Tiongco ‘no.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Malacañang Press Corps, let us all give a warm welcome to Secretary Dominguez and Undersecretaries Chua and Tiongco.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Fellow workers in government, friends in the media… good morning.

Today, our team will present to you the highlights of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN, the first package of our comprehensive tax reform program which was signed into law as R.A. 10963 on December 19, 2017. Specifically, I will discuss the key provisions of the TRAIN Law and its impact of income and prices, and how much revenues will be raised from this reform.

Let me first emphasize that this reform is an important milestone in our economic history. This is the first time that we are doing a tax reform, not because of a crisis or because it was imposed by external forces. It is also the first time that the main purpose of the reform is to reduce poverty and inequality, and not because of deficit or debt reduction. TRAIN is the first step to once and for all correct our unfair complex and inefficient tax system. Package one corrects the longstanding inequality of the tax system, thereby giving relief to 99% of taxpayers after 20 years of non-adjustment while broadening the tax base.

Here are the key provisions of TRAIN: First, everyone’s first 250 thousand pesos of annual taxable income, which the tax is around 21 thousand pesos is exempt from income tax. For the annual income between 250 thousand and 400 thousand pesos, the tax rate now is 20% of the excess over 250 thousand pesos. So there should be no fear in breaching the exemption threshold as only the excess will be taxable. In addition, the first 90 thousand pesos of the 13th month pay and other bonuses is exempt from income tax; 99% of taxpayers will pay, less income taxes. Only the top 1% with taxable income above 8 million pesos will pay more, because this is the mandate of a progressive tax system that is contained in our Constitution.

For example, the minimum wage worker in Manila with 12 thousand pesos monthly salary will continue to be exempt from personal income tax. A clerk who receives a monthly salary of 15 thousand pesos last year paid 7,000 pesos in taxes. This year because of TRAIN, he will now be exempt, so he will have an extra 7,000 pesos that will not be deducted from his withholding tax. A call center agent with a monthly salary of 21 thousand pesos used to pay almost 22 thousand pesos every year in taxes. He will no longer pay anything in income tax under the tax reform. A public hospital doctor, who has an average of 57 thousand pesos a month, will take home 48 thousand pesos more this year because of the lower tax rate.

So basically, what will happen is for those people who pay 250 thousand pesos and above, they will receive more or less 1 month’s take home pay every year, extra. So this was the promise of President Duterte during the campaign, and he has fulfilled it.

The following are the rest of the proposed tax schedule for 2018: For annual income between 400 and 800 thousand pesos a year, the tax rate is 25% of the excess over 400 thousand plus 30 thousand pesos. In the past, the tax rate was 32% in excess of 500 thousand pesos. For annual income between 800 thousand and 2 million pesos, the tax rate is now 30% of the excess over 800 thousand plus a 130 thousand pesos. For annual income between 2 million and 8 million, the tax rate is 32% of the excess over 2 million, plus a tax of 490 thousand pesos. And finally, those earning 8 million pesos and above will be subject to a higher tax rate of 35% of the excess, plus 2,410,000 pesos. These rates will further be reduced starting on 2023.

The next increase is in the oil excise tax. Congress approved various rates depending on the oil product. For example, excise tax on diesel per liter is P2.50 in 2018; P4.50 in 2019; and, P6.00 in 2020. On the other hand, the excise tax on gasoline per liter will be P7.00 in 2018; P9.00 in 2019; and, P10.00 in 2020. This means that starting around late January 2018 or early February the indicative pump price for diesel will be around P35.60 per liter for gasoline; and P49.80 per liter for gas.

Our analysis shows that the overall inflation might be increased by seven tenths of 1% due to higher oil prices in 2018 of which, food prices may increase by up to three tenths of 1%; and transportation will be up probably one tenth of 1%. This is rather manageable, especially when compared to the savings from the lower personal income tax. History supports this analysis, between January 2016 and January 2017, diesel increased by almost P14.00 which is an equivalent increase of 76%. However inflation remains stable, food and transportation, and electricity gas and housing, and water did not increased significantly. Rice, together with other essentials such as pork, sardines, fish and noodles did not have a significant increase despite the huge increases in diesel from January 2016 to January 2017.

To protect the poor and vulnerable from the impact of this moderate increase in prices due to the increase in oil excise, the DSWD is mandated to provide a targeted cash transfer to the poorest 10 million households in the amount of P2,400 per year in 2018; P3,600 per year in 2019 and 2020. This will be implemented in the first quarter of 2018. DSWD will identify beneficiaries based on the listahan—the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and the social pension beneficiaries. The budget for the unconditional cash transfer is included in the 2018 budget, totaling 25.7 billion pesos.

On coal: Congress increased the excise tax on both domestic and imported coal from 10 pesos per metric ton to 50 pesos, 100 pesos and 150 pesos in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively. Domestic coal will be… continues to be exempt from VAT. With an average price of 9 pesos per kilowatt now, the impact on the Meralco electricity price of coal is 2 centavos per kilowatt.

Those who consume 100 kilowatt hours per month pay about 780 pesos per month, they will only pay an additional 2 pesos due to coal and 13 pesos more due—13 pesos more with the oil and excise VAT. So essentially if you were paying 780 pesos a month on your electricity, you will be paying now about 793 pesos a month. On automobile excise tax, the cheapest vehicles will face a 4 percent rate and the most expensive vehicles, a 50 percent rate. The tax rates are based on net manufacturing or importers price before the margins of the importer and dealer are included. Pick-up trucks and purely electric vehicles will be fully exempt from the excise while highbred cars will be taxed at 50 percent.

On the sweetened beverage tax: Congress approved a rate of 6 pesos per liter for drinks containing caloric or non-caloric sweetener, and 12 pesos per liter for drinks containing high fructuous corn syrup. For example, the price of one liter bottle of regular soft drink will increase from 30 pesos to 42 pesos while one liter of diet soft drink will increase from 30 pesos to 36 pesos. This tax will minimize the consumption of soft drinks as this is not good for your health.

The 3 in 1 coffee and milk will be exempted. To simplify the VAT system and make it fairer, TRAIN has refilled 54 out of 61 especial laws with non-essential VAT exemption. Cooperatives will remain exempted starting this year, Condo and association dues will also be exempted. On the other hand, medicines for diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension will be exempted starting 2019.

The exemptions for PAGCOR and casino, domestic coal, renewable energy, credit surety, countryside barangay, business enterprise, mini-hydro and tourism will not be removed. Purchases of senior citizens and people with disability continue to be exempted from VAT. For the average Filipino, this will not have an impact as the removal of exemption will only affect groups enjoying it. While with TRAIN, Congress passed two-thirds of what is needed, of the needed revenue for 2018. They are expected to pass package 1-B within the first quarter of the year to help us achieved our revenue and deficit targets. This includes estate tax amnesty, general amnesty motor vehicle tax, user tax and relaxation of bank secrecy and automatic exchange of information.

Let me now briefly mention the physical impact of TRAIN. Over the course of 5 years, we will raise over 786 billion pesos in revenue with this law. These revenues will fund the President’s priorities: social and infrastructure programs. In package 1, Congress passed two-thirds of the needed revenue for 2018 and this is expected to pass the balance in early 2018 to help us achieve our revenue deficit targets.

This year, we aim to generate a total of 129 billion pesos in revenue with 89.9 billion under Republic Act 10963 and the balance of 38.9 billion pesos under package 1-B. To have an idea what the tax reform can fund: it can fund 629,120 public school classrooms or 2,685,101 public school teachers or 60,483 rural health units or 484,326 barangay health stations or 1,324 provincial hospitals or 35,745 kilometers of paved road and 786,400 kilometers of temporary bridge upgrades and 2,665,763 hectares of irrigated land.

All these will help improve people’s lives. Package 1-B is crucial to keep the 3 percent of GDP deficit target. To meet this target for the rest of the administration, we will need to pass packages 2 to 5. No succeeding packages means either a bridge of this deficit which will hurt our economy or a cut in government spending, possibly compromising the President’s infrastructure program.

To end, let me highlight the next packages of the comprehensive tax reform program: within this month we will submit to Congress our proposal for package 2, which will lower corporate income taxes and modernize physical incentives. We will also submit packages 4 on passive income and financial taxes by the second half of 2018. Thank you very much and we will accept questions now. And I know your questions will be difficult, that’s why I brought two of our expert Undersecretaries here, Undersecretaries Tiongco and Undersecretary Chua to help under these questions.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Good morning, I’m Celerina Monte from Manila Shimbun Japanese Newspaper. Sir, you have mentioned that package 2 will be submitted within the month and 4 will be by the middle of this year. How about 3 and 5? I believe there were—there are 5 packages. When do you intend to submit that?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes, package 3 will be also submitted within the year and package 5, we will see if we will still need revenues for package 5. Some of package 5 features have already been included in package 1.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: How much do you intend to get from all these packages once approve?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Our infrastructure program is about 8 billion pesos—8 trillion pesos, okay? It is not wise to borrow everything. It is just like any business. You have to have your own capital and this is our capital. So we would like to raise more or less something in the area of 2 trillion pesos for this, around 25 percent of the total. Just like any business when you put it up, you have to put up your own capita or else you will be borrowing too much.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: So, how much would be the impact, for instance on inflation and other services if ever?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Our estimates, and these are confirmed by the estimates of the Central Bank and the NEDA, it will increase by about seven tenths of 1%.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: No, overall… all the tax—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Seven tenth—about that, around that much. Because the other tax packages are not so much increasing taxes, it is just making it fair. I’ll give you an example, okay? For the taxes on passive income like your interest okay, when you put your money in the bank, you get an interest, right? However the government or the BIR will take 20% of the interest that you pay, right? That is if it is in pesos, less than 5 years; if it is in pesos more than 5 years, no tax okay?

Now, we think, that’s a bit anti-poor because who can afford to put your money more than 5 years, ‘di ba? So it really favors… right now the current tax system favors the wealthier people in the country. Another example, if you have dollars right, and you deposit the dollars and earned an interest, the tax is only 7 and a half percent withheld. So we want to take a look at all these different taxes and make it more fair, and it’s very complex because we though earlier that it would be simple, but there are what… about 150 loss for these taxes. So we want to make it more fair, so the other tax packages are not really designed to make more revenues, they are designed to make the system more fair.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: Clarification regarding doon sa second package, the—sa corporate. Iyong 5% according to the press release—before, you have mentioned that… does it cover the special economic zone? Iyong 5%, it will become 15% corporate tax…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Right now, right now… we are the only country in ASEAN who have 14 agencies that give tax incentives. In other ASEAN countries, there is probably 1 or 2 only. So we have a whole menu of incentives, and they are not all coordinated all the time. So we would like to simplify it, to make it more fair to everybody. The specifics are going to come out in about 2 weeks’ time.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: So the 5%–

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: It will come out in about 2 weeks’ time, the final specifics.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: So it’s not yet final, iyong 5 to 15%?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No—well, we have—it’s not yet final because we are going to put together the bill. And of course, that is our proposal and it will be filed by the legislators.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, Henry Uri po sa DZRH. Iyong binabanggit ho ninyo na ‘can fund’, ano ba ‘yan… ngayon na ho ba ‘yang termino ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte mapopondohan lahat?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Ah, ganito ho iyon ‘no… Iyong tax—the tax that we are raising can, that is the—you know, if I just talk to you in money, it doesn’t really mean anything ‘di ba? But if I tell you, this money that we will raise can fund 2.6 million hectares of additional agricultural land, I think it means a little something, right? So, this is what this money can buy.

HENRY URI/DZRH: In 5 years, meaning during the term or during the remaining years of this Duterte administration?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes. That it can fund that, okay.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Okay. So asahan po namin na because of TRAIN, mayroon kaming mga infrastructure, rural health centers, provincial hospitals na makikita because of this TRAIN?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes, yes… of course.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Okay. Another question, Secretary, siguro ho ay narinig na rin ninyo ito, pero for the record… bakit daw po ninyo pinapatawan ng buwis ang nakararami, lalo po ang mga medyo—hindi naman kayamanan na mga indibiduwal na mamamayang Pilipino, pero may mga hinahabol po tayong mga tax evader. Ang tanong po eh, ilan po ba at sinu-sino po ba iyong mga top 3 o top 5 tax evader ngayon sa ating bansa?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: (Laughs) Nahuli na namin iyong isa, but I cannot tell you the rest kasi under investigation pa. Or maybe, Tonette would like to add… (laughs)

USEC. TIONGCO: (off mic) No, no. It’s still under investigation…

HENRY URI/DZRH: Last question, Secretary. Noong April pa naman ho ito, pero mismong sa Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte nanggaling iyon pong sinasabi niya na si Ginoong Lucio Tan ay mayroong 30 billion unpaid taxes sa gobyerno. Ano po ang nangyari na po dito?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Tonette…

USEC. TIONGCO: Yes. Based on the records of the BIR, there is no final finding on any assessment for Lucio Tan. Maaring mayroon siyang mga regular audits na kino-conduct ng BIR, but that’s about it.

HENRY URI/DZRH: So hindi po gaanong katotoo iyong sinabi ng Pangulo na may 30 billion siyang unpaid tax sa gobyerno?

USEC. TIONGCO: I think he may have been referring to the payment of the CAAP terminal fees which were paid already.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Opo, pero 6 billion lang yata ho iyong utang ng CAAP.

USEC. TIONGCO: Yeah… I can’t be too clear about the numbers, but as far as I can recall, it’s that… that was I think what he was referring to.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Okay. Last po! Kailan po namin makikita na talagang naparusahan o nasingil na sa lahat ng mga tax evaders sa bansa, iyon pong hinahabol ng gobyerno?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: We don’t have a… right now, we have not caught all the tax evaders, but we caught the biggest one, okay. We caught the tax evader who was penalized 30 billion pesos, and that was Mighty Cigarettes – and Mighty is no longer in the business. Their business was taken over by somebody, by another company and no jobs were lost but the government collected 30 billion pesos—no, actually 29.5 billion pesos and another half a billion pesos coming in April.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Alright. Salamat po.

MIKHAIL FLORES/NIKKEI: Good morning Secretary, Mikhail Flores po of Nikkei. Sir based on past DOF pronouncements, I think package 2, do you plan it to be a revenue-neutral? So, is it still the direction that—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes.

MIKHAIL FLORES/NIKKEI: Okay. So with that sir, can you—I’d like to know sir, how much a revenue forgone… does the government incur on an annual basis with all the incentives that we’re granting to some firms, and—?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: We don’t have the total number yet, some items are still being computed. But what we have is around 300 billion pesos a year, yeah. We have not yet computed their—the local business tax that was forgone, and we have not yet computed the leakage that exists. But we know that from income tax, customs duties, import VAT, local VAT, it is around 301 billion pesos a year.

MIKHAIL FLORES/NIKKEI: Okay. And you mentioned also, there are a lot of investment promotion agencies which grant the—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes, 14… 14 investment promotion.

MIKHAIL FLORES/NIKKEI: So under Package 2, do you plan to consolidate all these into just a single agency which will grant incentives?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No. what we plan to do, is we plan to expand the coverage of the Fiscal Incentives Review Board to cover all the incentives given, not only the incentives given to government agencies.

MIKHAIL FLORES/NIKKEI: And last from my end. You warned in your statement Secretary, that the government is at risk of breaching its 3% deficit program if the TRAIN—if the subsequent TRAIN packages are not enacted?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No, I did not say that. I said the government will not breach the 3 percent.

MIKHAIL FLORES/NIKKEI: No, I mean if the TRAIN packages are not passed—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Then we have two options. We can pass more laws or we can reduce expenses.

MIKHAIL/NIKKEI: Okay thank you.

PIA RANADA/RAPPLER: Good afternoon, Secretary. I just want to ask for a concrete, or specific projects that we might have already earmarked that will be funded by the first tax reform package. We know that this will go to infrastructure and development projects. But do we have specific projects?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes.

PIA/RAPPLER: Which one sir?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Right now we have the Kaliwa Dam, we have the Chico River Dam, we have the train between Clark and Calamba. We have the train—railway between Digos and Tagum. And we have a numerous road projects. We can give you a list from the NEDA. I’ll get the list from the NEDA and provide it to you.

PIA/RAPPLER: Sir safe to say all the NEDA approved projects will be funded by the tax reform—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes of course.

PIA/RAPPLER: Sir next question. Has Malacañang seen the other packages? Has the President seen the other proposed packages?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: He has been briefed, yes.

PIA/RAPPLER: So the package 1-B will be sent to him first before the Congress—before be sent to Congress.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No, no, it’s already there. It’s already in Congress.

PIA/RAPPLER: Okay. Sir, can we expect the President to also certify as urgent those other—he committed…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I think that he’s certified this urgent already—

PIA/RAPPLER: No it’s only—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: We have to re-certify this—yeah he will—

PIA/RAPPLER: Sir he’s committed to doing that?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I believe so.

ACE ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Secretary Dominguez, I’ll just ask when do you intend to issue the Dollar, the Samurai and Panda bonds?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: The Panda bonds are actually pending approval by the monetary authority in China. That’s the usual process. The Panda bonds we are studying for issuance sometime this year. What’s the other one?

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Samurai and if you plan to intend—if you intend to float Samurai bonds—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I’m sorry the Samurai bonds are being considered for some time towards the end of this year.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: And do you intend to float dollar bonds also?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes, in fact that will be—that will happen between now and February.

ACE/PHIL. STAR: So, how much do we intend to raise from these issuances?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: What?

ACE/PHIL. STAR: Those—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Roughly—215 million dollars equivalent in Renminbi for the Panda bonds. The Japanese Samurai not sure yet, and the bonds for—that we will issue for the US, more or less is same amount of last year.

ACE/PHIL.STAR: Thank you, Secretary.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, good morning. You mentioned kanina ‘no in late January or early February dapat mararamdaman iyong effect ng TRAIN on the oil excise taxes—oil prices. Pero mayroon na mga recent increases ‘di ba? So it will be—this increase, on top of the ones we’re going to have—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No we are saying the increases due to the—due to the additional excise taxes will be felt upon the—how would you say—withdrawal or consumption of all the taxes that—of all the fuel that was withdrawn prior to the TRAIN. Kasi you know the gasoline stations keep—I don’t know how many months inventory. So the inventory that was already paid with the old taxes will—should remain at the same price.

JOSEPH/GMA7: So dapat sir late—early February and late January dapat?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I think so. I think so. I don’t have the exact inventory figures.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Yes.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: We’ll check with the DOE about that but that’s what I expect ‘di ba? Around that time—

JOSEPH/GMA7: I’m just curious. Mayroon pong provision for vouchers ‘no, for jeepney drivers, was that retained in the final form?

USEC. CHUA: There is in the budget I think, 900 million subsidy for these vouchers and social assistance. That is, if they will be affected but so far we have not seen case wherein we would have to tap that in full. Because as Secretary mentioned when diesel increase by 14 pesos, last year we have not seen food prices go up. In fact the jeepney fare increased by only 1 peso.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: No, I just want to point out something ha. You know, when the price of fuel was 56 pesos—now 44 pesos right—56 pesos. There was an increase in—this was several years ago. There was an increase in transportation cost by 8.50. When it went down to 36 pesos, they did not reduce it by 8.50. Did they? Exactly. So—

JOSEPH/GMA7: So sir related to that, may petition po for fare hikes ‘di ba?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I don’t know.

JOSEPH/GMA7: So you don’t think that’s warranted?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I’m not sure. We have to look at the figures but at this point in time since the fuel did not go up. I don’t see any reason to have a fare hike because of fuel.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Okay sir, thank you.

DREO CALONZO/ KBK, GMANews.TV: Hi sir.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Good afternoon.

DREO/ KBK, GMANews.TV: Sir, will the government proceed with the plan to sell PAGCOR casinos this year?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: That plan is being prepared by the PAGCOR as well as the privatization group in the Department of Finance. You know this a—it’s not a simple selling of goods since there are lot of complicated contracts involved ‘no. So what we are planning to do is basically, the principle is—the goal is to separate the operating function of PAGCOR from its regulatory function.

DREO/ KBK, GMANews.TV: Sir so given that its quite complex. Will this proceed still this year?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yeah, I think the plan will be completed within the next few months.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir, follow up ko lang iyong sa Marawi bond. Mayroon na bang plan to issue that kasi I believe—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yes, there is a plan to issue the Marawi bond. What we are waiting for is the plan to rehabilitate Marawi. You know the financing only follows the plan. So we don’t have the complete plan yet. But I understand Mr. Del Rosario has said he will finish it by March. But we are ready with the issuance of a Marawi bond.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: How much po iyong—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: I don’t know nga eh, because we have to complete the plan first eh.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: But there’s an initial assessment of 50 billion already—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: There is a couple of—I think there is a—is it 20 billion in the budget already set up. But that certainly not sufficient I believe. But we have to wait for the complete plan eh.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: So by second quarter kung matatapos?

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Well we depends on the plan—you know the financing only follows the plan. I mean, you know, you don’t borrow money before you have a plan to build a house ‘di ba? So we’ll wait for the plan. We are ready to issue that bond—those bonds yeah.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, I’m Arjay Balinbin from Business World. Sir, on the general tax amnesty in the package 1-B, how much do you expect from it and can you give us details about it, sir?

USEC. CHUA: Well iyong amnesty, we can’t really say how many will avail. So what we did was to look at past amnesties and how much we collected.

in eight (8) amnesties, we collected 13 billion that’s around .07 of our GDP. We use the same estimate and that least around 26 billion if I’m not mistaken—

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Double na?

USEC. CHUA: Yes, because our GDP has practically doubled. But it really depends on who will avail.

ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: Thank you sir. Sir, what about the implementation of the attrition law this year—

USEC. TIONGCO: Well first of all. I’m happy to report that the collection of both the BIR and the BOC have exceeded threshold for applicability of the attrition law.

As of the latest numbers that came in, the BOC collected 97.86% of the collection target; and the BIR collected 97.19% of the collection target. So all in all, because—the threshold is 92.5, so on an overall basis, they’ve already exceeded the attrition target. We would see how that works out as you break them down per district, per office – whether those lower offices have met their targets. But you know as a general rule, they’ve exceeded the target – the 92.5 threshold to the attrition law.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir, just on the 900 million subsidy vouchers. If and when you’re going to need to dip into it, how are you going to avail if you’re, maybe a jeepney driver?

USEC. CHUA: This is something we will have to ask DOTr and LTFRB. The details I’m not certain, but we have put in place that money so that that can be tap when needed.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: We want to show a demo ha, it’s on our website if you don’t mind… It will show you how much tax you will not pay, and we also have an estimate on how much increase in expenses you have. But it does not take into consideration the marginal propensity to consume, okay? Because I know, people when they have more money, they spend more okay. So this one is just, don’t spend more money (laughs), okay. So here… So, where’s the…

USEC. CHUA: So, basically you have heard many questions about what is the total impact of the TRAIN. So there is the positive part which is the lower income tax, and there’s also the slight increase in the prices that you have to pay because of the small inflation, and if you buy products such as sugar, sweet and beverage and oil. So we develop this so that we can explain to the public what is the real impact. So, if I will just demo…

So here, if you go to the www.calculator.ph which will be now live for everyone to check, you can input your marital status, or single or kasal—let’s say kasal. And then dependents, maybe you have 2 dependents… okay. Under the current tax system as of this year, this 2 do not matter. But because we are comparing with the previous system which takes into account your marital status and your dependents, you have to input that. And then you put your gross, let’s say your gross is P50,000 per month. And then you are private sector, and then your spouse because you file together is let’s say P30,000, okay. And then you click the ‘calculate’… and it is as simple as that.

What you will see here is the SSS, PhilHealth and PAGIBIG contributions for the husband and the wife. Then if you go up again, here, it will compute the old and the new income tax system. So under the old you pay P15,000 tax, under the new you pay only P7,360 – so combined, you will have P8,050 per month savings or 104 thousand pesos more or less per year as a husband and wife. So, that is the positive benefit of TRAIN. And you have heard that maybe, this will not be enough to cover all the expenses. So we calculated, if you down… the impact on your expenses due to the VAT, automobile, the sin tax – this is the tobacco… cash transfer if you are poor, you get something; oil, sugar sweet and beverage and inflationary effects.

So we did not invent this, we looked at what a typical household given your salary consumes as you reported in the triennial family income and expenditure survey. And if you add them all up, you will pay only P1,322 per month or P15,000 per year. So here you will see your monthly savings, so P8,000 because of the lower income tax and additional expense – so you will still have a net gain. So what we believe is, for the majority or supermajority of Filipinos, 99% will truly benefit net effect, is positive. So you can try this, and we invite the public to…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Yeah, you can go up…

USEC. CHUA: Yeah, try it.

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: You should try it. Of course, the BIR is watching you ha… (laughs)

ROCKY/PTV: Okay. Thank you, Undersecretary Karl Chua. Thank you Undersecretary Antoinette Tiongco, and Secretary Carlos Dominguez. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque…

SEC. DOMINGUEZ: Thank you. Thank you. If you have more questions, you can call us anytime.

SEC. ROQUE: No, wait… I have good news first. We have lots of good news, okay. So, thank you…

Let me begin with our Monday good news. Pulse Asia released its last quarter survey on approval and trust rating – the President received the highest approval at 80% and highest trust level at 82% amongst the country’s top 5 national officials ‘no. His numbers showed that our people are aware of and recognizes significant strides the President undertook in his one year and a half in office ‘no. We assure our people that he will continue to discharge his duties with nation’s interest foremost in his mind. We thus call on everyone to put this appreciation into action by standing as one and helping the government as we continue to address the problem of poverty, illegal drugs, criminality and corruption.

SEC. ROQUE: Second good news. The DOTr announced today’s groundbreaking ceremony of the Southeast Metro Manila Expressway Project or the ‘SEMME’, which is the first phase of the Metro Manila C6 Expressway Project ‘no. When completed in 2020, it will cut travel time from Bicutan, Taguig to Batasan, Quezon City by… to only about 35 minutes. SEMME will start in the South with the connection to the existing Skyway Stage 1 in FTI, Taguig City and will terminate in Batasan Complex in Quezon City. It will eventually connect to the North Luzon Expressway via Balagtas. Groundbreaking ceremony was led by DOTr, Toll Regulatory Board, in partnership with DPWH and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and the City Government of Taguig.

More good news. We continue to deliver social services to our veterans and their families. Last year, 85.05 million worth of medical and healthcare subsidy was allocated by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office for our veterans and their qualified dependents under the Veterans Hospitalization and Medical Care Program. An average of 208,159 pension accounts also benefitted from 9.06 billion pension allocation in the PVAO.

In addition, 2,185 Iskolar ng Bayan were given educational benefits with the total amount of P38.11 million as of November 2017.

More good news… the WHO had positive remarks for our sugar sweetened beverage tax provision ‘no. The WHO said that the passage of the tax provision for sugar sweetened beverages, saying that this is a great step forward in protecting the health of Filipinos. The Filipinos is among the first Asian countries to initiate the SSB tax, with this development, we hope to contribute to our national health agenda and hopefully prevent the risk associated with overweight and obesity, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and tooth decay.

Final peace of good news for this week, for this Monday… is that the world we topped… for the third straight year we topped, meaning we’re number one in the World Energy Council’s Energy Trilemma Index 2017 or environmental sustainability. Environmental sustainability together with energy security and energy equity forms part of our energy development program. Relative to this, the national government through the Department of Energy has laid down policies including the renewable portfolio standards which mandates energy distribution utilities to source a minimum portion of their energy from eligible renewable sources. And soon, green energy option program will be launched to enable consumers the power to choose renewable energy resources as their source of energy.

The WEC rating on environmental sustainability is also a recognition of the administration’s advocacy, encouraging Filipinos to make energy, efficiency and conservation a way of life. Our millennium, our program on minimum energy performance requirement for household appliances continues to help us control the growth of our total energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Let me comment first as a Spokesperson on the Gerry Ortega case – the President remains the chief implementor of the laws, the case was filed by the Executive. We have gotten a decision from the Regional Trial Court that the evidence against former Governor Joel Reyes is strong, which prompted the court to dismiss the petition of bail. We will exercise all legal options to reverse this decision of the Court of Appeals.

For the first time, I was allowed by the President to comment in my individual capacity on this case. So I have expressed consent to comment, and my comment is: it is not true that the case was a miracle. The case true is a ‘kababalaghan’, but it’s really a travesty of justice. I’ve point out that the only issue in the petition is whether or not there was probable cause to charge former Governor Joel Reyes. There was already a prior Supreme Court decision, with Justice Marvic Leonen as ponente ruling on the validity of the second panel created to investigate and determine probable cause against Joel Reyes, and which panel concluded there was probable cause. And the Supreme Court in that case said, that pursuant to the Crespo ruling which is Mark Jimenez, it is now up to the lower court, the Regional Trial Court to determine the existence of probable cause.

As former private prosecutor in the case, I only left the case June 30, 2016 when I took my oath as member of the 17th Congress. At that time, we have concluded presentation of all evidence for the prosecution, and the defense had also concluded its presentation of evidence; and there was already a decision of the lower court that evidence of guilt was strong against former Governor Joel Reyes.

So I find it alarming that the CA decision, number one, overruled an earlier Supreme Court decision; and number two, arrogated its own judgment for that of the Regional Trial Court that had the opportunity to physically accept the evidence, observe the demeanor of the witnesses and concluded that there was in fact probable cause. This is a very sad development for freedom of the press in this country, given that the murder of Gerry Ortega is a classic case of extralegal killings since Gerry Ortega was both a member of the journalism profession – he was a journalist and he’s also an activist. EO 35 classifies the killing of both journalist and activist as extralegal killings ‘no.

And of course, we condole with the family of Jake Macasaet. Jake as you know is a long term publisher of Malaya. We consider his death to be a big loss for Philippine journalism. Aside from being active in publishing Malaya and being active in the mosquito press during the martial law years, Jake was best known for wanting to be cited in contempt rather than be silenced even by the court. In one Supreme Court decision, he was cited in contempt because of his remarks about the so-called ‘Majestic 7,’ alleged judges in cahoots with… alleged corrupt justices of the Supreme Court. He preferred to be cited in contempt, rather than surrender his independence as a journalist.

I had the privilege to work with Jake Macasaet in connection with the libel cases filed by the former First Gentleman against a number of libel cases. He was very maverick and he insisted, “Let them file charges against me, because I consider them as badges of honor.” He will be missed – both by me personally and by the nation.

Questions now…

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Distinguish ko lang ha. Iyong pinayagan ka na magsalita on your own, iyon lang iyong sound byte na ‘kababalaghan’. But the statement that the government will do everything to reverse the CA ruling, that’s from him

SEC. ROQUE: That’s an official stand of the Philippine government, because all criminal cases are prosecuted in the name of the People of the Philippines.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Alright, iyon muna sir… baka may iba pang Gerry na topic.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: So sir, what does the government intend to do? Like, will there be any filing of any appeal or…?

SEC. ROQUE: Because of my awkward position, I can’t say that I think the government will exhaust all remedies including filing first of a motion for reconsideration, having said that there that was that prior Supreme Court decision that it is up to the Regional Trial Court to determine the existence of probable cause, which had been already determined by the Regional Trial Court. I intend to invite Solicitor General Calida and Secretary of Justice this week to address not just this case, but dismissal of some of the high profile drug cases.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir apparently, the decision of the CA… it stated that there was no evidence and those circumstantial evidence presented by the Solicitor General, parang the CA found them na hindi daw siya acceptable. Like for instance iyong flight, it’s not really an indication na a crime was committed that’s why he left the country. And the—like the passport issue, it’s another matter daw, iyong paggamit niya ng fake passport.

SEC. ROQUE: I will answer that in my personal capacity – of course not. I presented the evidence myself, under the control and supervision of the public prosecutor. Every point that the witness Bumar testified to was corroborated by other evidence and other testimonies ‘no, other witnesses. There is nothing in the testimony of Bumar that was not corroborated by another witness or by physical evidence – we made sure of that. So I dispute that, we did not rely on circumstantial evidence. Yes, we relied on the testimony of Bumar, but also, as every material point of the testimony we felt and the Regional Trial Court agreed that we were able to prove matters testified on by Bumar by other independent evidence prompting the Regional Trial Court to rule that evidence of guilt is strong, and therefore he’s not entitled to bail.

CELERINA/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir specifically cited rin iyong… iyong 300 thousand supposed left, when 6 armed men chased them; supposedly that would be corroborated raw by the other witnesses and yet that important incident was not corroborated by the other witnesses. It’s only Edrad or it was only Bumar who claimed about that incident.

SEC. ROQUE: Well you see, it was only Bumar that lost the money. But what were the corroborating evidence, ‘no? The corroborating evidence includes the testimony of Marlon Recamata who testified on the organization of the hit squad. There was also the testimony of Mr. Arandia and Mr. Armando Noel on the procurement of the murder weapon; the constant communication between them and Bumar, and the survey that’s conducted on Dr. Ortega, the payment for the job and procurement of money from the house of Mario Reyes from ava (?), and we even had physical evidence of the entry in ava (?) and the escape of the suspect.

Of course, the declaration of the Court of Appeals that flight does not necessarily mean guilt, runs contrary to fact of jurisprudence—very clearly ruled upon by the Supreme Court that flight is evidence of guilt.

CELERINA MONTE/MANILA SHIMBUN: Sir last. Do you think the CA just became choosy in defending its decision?

SEC. ROQUE: I do not know how they came up with this decision but it was not unanimous. They have had to create a special division because two lady justices dissented from the decision.

PIA RANADA/RAPPLER: Sir there was a petition filed by the NUPL seeking to—asking the Courts to rule as unconstitutional—the martial law extension. They were saying that this is because martial law extension is a threat—is more a threat against dissenters and activists than actually meant to quell an actual rebellion. Any comment on this from Malacañang?

SEC. ROQUE: Well we can certainly defend martial laws as it has been reviewed already by both houses of Congress and both houses of Congress voting jointly concluded that there is both factual and legal basis. Two branches of government have already ruled that martial law is constitutional and we are confident that the Philippine government—the Executive can defend his position in the Supreme Court as well. Certainly since martial law has been imposed twice already, we have not had any documented cases of persecution against anyone.

PIA/RAPPLER: Sir, I think this is coming from the sentiment that the NPA were identified, as well as the legal fronts identified in the request for extension as targets of martial law, differing from the previous request for martial law.

SEC. ROQUE: I think the—branding the NPA as terrorist is separate and distinct from martial law. They were branded as terrorist because they are terrorists.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, on about TRAIN pa rin although ito naman eh side ng Palasyo. Mayroon hong gagawing challenge si Congressman Antonio Tinio sa Supreme Court. Sinasabi niya na regressive, anti-poor itong TRAIN at kinu-question niya iyong procedural matters noong pagka-apruba noong ratipikasyon noong batas. Ano ang sagot ng Malacañang dito?

SEC. ROQUE: Well of course this is a law duly enacted by Congress. It he enjoys the overwhelming presumption of Constitutionality. But going beyond the presumption, number one on the issue of regressive, I think Secretary Dominguez and his team were able to answer that. It can’t be regressive because the poor and the middle income earners stand to benefit from TRAIN; and secondly on the challenge on the procedural aspect of it, this is a decided case, Astorga versus Villegas. Enrolled bill doctrine: “as soon as the Senate President and the House Speaker affix their signature, it is a certification that all processes have been complied with and that’s entitled to much respect on the part of the co-equal branch of government which is the courts.” Enrolled bill theory: Astorga versus Villegas.

HENRY URI/DZRH: Thank you sir.

PIA GUTTIEREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir regarding the allegations against CHED Chair Patricia Licuanan on her foreign trips. Pero sir, is the President aware of this allegations and what can he say about—what can he say about this allegations? I believe she travelled eight times in the past few months and did she actually secure the authority of Malacañang for her to travel sir?

SEC. ROQUE: She said so, but what I’m not sure as of now is number one, if there has been a formal complaint against CHED Chair Licuanan and number two, if it has been receive by PMS. Unlike other cases, there were actual complaints received by PMS duly furnished our office ‘no. I’m not sure there is such a complaint although I’m aware that Congressman Nograles recently spoke out against these trips. Needless to say the President always looks on and investigates all these reports. It would help if it’s formally filed.

PIA/ABS-CBN: Alright sir. On another topic. Aside from the Pulse Asia report may lumabas na rin po na SWS survey and it show that 70 percent of Filipinos believed that President Duterte is a better President than former President PNoy. What can Malacañang say about it?

SEC. ROQUE: I think the survey probes what we already know as a fact. Incidentally in addition to 70 percent believe that he’s a better President, 86 percent believed that the President is taking on the right direction. That’s again a fact.

PIA/ABS-CBN: Thank you sir.

ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, Senate President Pimentel said last Saturday that he will soon file a resolution on Con-Ass for federalism. Was ‘Con-Ass’ discussed in the Palace?

SEC. ROQUE: No, it has never been discussed in the Palace. Of course the President has expressed a preference for ‘Con-Ass’. But there has not been any formal discussion. It is a decision made by Congress itself.

ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: Has the Palace submitted an official proposal on federalism to the House or Senate?

SEC. ROQUE: Not the Palace, PDP Laban has.

ARJAY/BUSINESS WORLD: Okay, thank you, sir.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir related, who Malacañang certified that bill as urgent—the federalism by Koko?

SEC. ROQUE: Well let’s just say that as of now it hasn’t been certified. I will check with the President if it’s inclined to have it certified as urgent, although both Houses of Congress have identified, okay, Con-Ass and Constitutional revision as part of their legislative priorities.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Sir, ano iyon magiging priority, BBL or Federalism?

SEC. ROQUE: That’s really up to Congress.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Not the Palace? Cause you know the—

SEC. ROQUE: (overlapping voices)

JOSEPH/GMA7: Know, it is an executive commitment—

SEC. ROQUE: Well the Congress is still a separate branch of government. We leave it to the leadership and the members of the Congress to agree on their legislative priorities.

JOSEPH/GMA7: The President will not push for the BBL.

SEC. ROQUE: The President has been pushing for BBL. But it is up to Congress because your question is what will they prioritize? That’s up to them.

JOSEPH/GMA7: Okay.

ROCKY IGNACIO: Okay thank you, Joseph. Thank you, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

SEC. ROQUE: Thank you and happy birthday and see you again tomorrow. Happy Birthday and I think there will be celebration [laughs].

ROCKY: Thank you, Malacañang Press Corps.

SEC. ROQUE: Okay, see you tomorrow.

ROCKY: Back to our main studio sa Radyo Pilipinas and People’s Television.

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 Source: PCOO – News Information Bureau (NIB)

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