Angara wants critics to see TRAIN law's bright side

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Senator Sonny Angara says critics should see the bright side of the tax reform law he shepherded in the Senate instead of just focusing on the additional taxes it imposed.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12) — Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara said critics should see the positive changes brought about by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law instead of focusing on the excise taxes it imposed on petroleum products and other goods and services.

"When you criticize TRAIN, how come they don't talk about the income tax exemption of P250,000 which benefitted millions of families? And no one talks about the estate tax, no one talks about the simplification of the tax code … The [value added tax] return for small companies, you don't have to do it every month now," Angara told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday.

The opposition has repeatedly slammed TRAIN for imposing additional excise taxes, especially on fuel, hiking gasoline prices by ₱7 per liter, diesel by ₱2.50 per liter and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) by ₱1 per kilogram in 2018.

Despite increasing the price of petroleum products, Angara, who is running for re-election, said that the administration's tax reform program should not be blamed for rapid inflation last year, which peaked at almost seven percent in October 2018.

He said the rise in prices of crude oil in the world market and U.S. actions against Syria and China set the stage for a "perfect storm."

"You ask 10 economists, nine out of 10 will tell you it's (higher oil prices) because of global demand," said Angara, who shepherded the passage of the TRAIN law in the Senate. "Siyempre, gustong gamitin 'yan ng ibang partido o indibidwal para for political benefit."

[Translation: Of course, other parties or individuals would want to use that for their political benefit.]

While he ardently defended the TRAIN law, he said he would have proposed for the excise tax on petroleum products to be gradually imposed over four or five years instead of three years.

However, he said this would have set back the government's infrastructure projects by a year.

Amid rapid inflation last year, Angara was among the senators who wrote to President Rodrigo Duterte to ask for the suspension of the excise tax on fuel even before the price of Dubai crude oil hits at least $80 per barrel for three months, which would have triggered the automatic suspension of the imposition of additional levies on petroleum products.

The administration said it would comply, but backed down after inflation slightly eased in the last months of 2018.

The TRAIN law hiked January 1 taxes on petroleum products, bringing gasoline up by ₱10.08 per liter, kerosene by ₱4.48 per liter, diesel by ₱5.04 per liter and LPG by ₱2.24 per liter.

Come 2020, the law will further increase taxes on those products for the last time, bringing gasoline up by ₱11.20 per liter, diesel by ₱5.04 per liter and LPG by ₱3.36 per kilogram.

During his 2017 State of the Nation Address, Duterte singled out Angara, the chair of the Senate committee in charge of taxes, warning him about the elections after he called on the Senate to pass his tax reform measure.

"Ayaw man mag palakpak, pati si ano, wala. They are not clapping. Si Angara, ayaw ring mag-clap. Bantay ka lang sa eleksyon, tingnan mo," Duterte said.

[Translation: They don't want to clap, even this guy, none. They are not clapping. Even Angara doesn't want to clap. Just watch out in the elections, just see.]

Angara pushed for the passage of the TRAIN law. He is now included in Duterte's senatorial slate and the ticket of Hugpong ng Pagbabago, the regional party of the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.