By Charmaine A. Tadalan
LAWMAKERS on Tuesday urged the government to fast-track implementation of social mitigation measures in light of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law and rising inflation.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chair of the Senate economic affairs committee, said rolling out these measures of the TRAIN law should have been the “first option” in addressing price hikes.
“May pondo na inilaan na para sa kababayan natin. Kaya talagang nakakadismaya na di nil ma-implement (Funds have been allocated for our people, which is why it is disappointing that this has not been implemented),” Mr. Gatchalian told reporters.
“Number one is (the) P300 (in) Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) na kalahati pa lang ang nai-implement (only half of which has been implemented.) Number two, discount on rice and discount on fares that should be implemented also. Number three, the Pangtawid Pasada (that should be) formulate(d) just in case lang tumaas-taas pa ’yung presyo ng langis (oil prices rise further),” Mr. Gatchalian added.
For her part, Senator Grace Poe S. Poe-Llamanzares, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said she has written to the Department of Finance, the Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Education, regarding the release of guidelines to implement subsidies for poor families and low-wage earners.
“As swift as we had passed the TRAIN law, it is only right that we immediately implement the mitigating measures which we have designed for the poorest of the poor. The social welfare and benefits program is and indispensable part of the implementation of TRAIN. Without this program, I fear that TRAIN would result (in) more harm than good,” she said.
For his part, Quirino Representative Dakila Carlo E. Cua, chairman of the House ways and means committee, said in a statement: “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.”
“The Committee is arranging a round-table discussion with the implementing agencies to discuss the delays and come up with a way forward,” he also said.
According to the General Appropriations Act of 2018, P25 million is allocated to unconditional cash transfers and P900 million to fuel vouchers for jeepney franchises.
Minimum-wage earners and the poorest 50% of the population are also entitled to fare discounts, rice discounts and free skills training.
“Regardless of the causes (of the price increases), the effects…are more pronounced on those who have less income. They are the families who can barely get by and urgently need help from government,” Mr. Cua said.