As Solons quizzed DOF leaders on finances, debt crisis fears dissipated

As Solons quizzed DOF leaders on finances, debt crisis fears dissipated

FEARS of a looming debt crisis were quickly allayed last Tuesday by Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara after gaining firm assurances from Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno that the Philippines would not go the way Asian countries, including Sri Lanka and other downgraded Asian neighbors.

“There has been a lot of speculation about our debt, with the Sri Lanka cases and some of these downgrades,” Senator Angara had noted, but was quickly reassured firmly “from our finance officials and our officials. economic that we will not go down this road”. , and that the debt is still at a manageable level? »

The senator raised the issue during the organizational meeting of the Senate Ways and Means Committee which included a briefing from Treasury Department officials led by Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, who assured that the country has “always been careful in borrowing.

Diokno also credited tax reform laws passed by Congress, saying they were “essential to keeping the economy afloat” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I can assure you, your honors, that we will not go the way of Sri Lanka,” the finance chief told the Senate panel.

Tax fraud, smugglers

At the same hearing, Senator Maria Lourdes “Nancy” S. Binay also questioned whether the government was winning the campaign against tax evaders and smugglers.

Binay said she was curious whether the BIR and BOC had succeeded in catching the “big fish” in their respective campaigns.

“I asked this question because there is this impression that our campaign against tax evaders and smugglers is not a deterrent simply because no one knows how many have been convicted of these crimes.”

Binay observed that “it’s easy to file a complaint but the real condemnation of smugglers and tax evaders, I think is something that is missing from our campaign”. This quickly prompted a response from the BOC and BIR officials present who assured that they would “submit a detailed report” on the cases filed by their respective agencies, including the “actual number of cases won” by the two agencies. .

Meanwhile, Sen. Pia S. Cayetano pushed for the duty-free importation of hospital equipment at the organizational meeting of the Senate Ways and Means Committee also on Tuesday.

Recalling that in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Marcos had stressed the need to establish specialized hospitals in other parts of the country.

“I support that; I have a bill on this,” the senator said. “But the most effective way to achieve this is to attach these specialist services to existing regional hospitals instead of building new ones.”

Derogations envisaged

ON that note, Cayetano added, “On the tax issue, my question is, does the DOF [Department of Finance] at least be ready to consider, for a limited time, a tax-free and duty-free import of medical equipment? »

In turn, Diokno assured that the DOF “will consider the importation of equipment for specialized hospitals as an exemption from the rule prohibiting the granting of tax exemptions”.

Meanwhile, Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairing the organizational meeting of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, also asserted that the panel would fulfill its mandate as “legislative guardian of the taxpayers.”

As such, Gatchalian pledged to “balance the interests of government and stakeholders, and to ensure that government revenues” are effectively allocated to economic and social developments.

“With the adoption over the past decades of many fiscal measures which have confirmed and reinforced the right of government to demand and collect taxes from the people,” said Gatchalian, “the time has come to legislate and adopt policies that would promote and protect the rights and privileges of those from whom the taxes emanate, and these are none other than our dear taxpayers.

Robert P. Matthews