De Lima vows to probe ‘unexplained delays’ of gov’t measures vs TRAIN law’s impact

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has vowed to look into the unexplained delays of some government agencies in implementing social measures cushioning the impact of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act to ordinary Filipino families.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 767 tasking the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development which she chairs to conduct an inquiry on the status of the measures meant to cushion the adverse impact of TRAIN Law.

“The unexpected surge in inflation should have triggered immediate action on the part of our implementing agencies to fast-track the distribution of the social benefits provisions under the TRAIN Act,” she said.

“The unexplained delays in the implementation of the social benefit mechanisms in TRAIN Act has led to the poorest of the poor taking the full brunt of the inflation without any support system in sight to ease its impact,” she added.

Enacted last December, the TRAIN Law appropriated under Section 82 a portion of the yearly incremental revenues for social welfare and benefits programs which include unconditional cash transfers, fuel vouchers, fare and rice discounts, among others.

Since the tax law’s implementation, however, the average year-to-date headline inflation has already breached the upper limit of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas target of 2-4 percent for 2018 and hit a five-year high of 4.6 percent as early as May this year.

De Lima noted that the headline inflation has been forecast to surge further for the rest of the year due to the second-round effect of TRAIN, such as the anticipated approval of fare and wage hike petitions which could further result to inflationary pressures.

She also pointed out that even the fuel voucher program under the Department of Transportation has not yet been implemented for the public utility vehicles, amid the continuing increases of crude oil prices in the global market.

According to the Senator from Bicol, the mismanagement by the National Food Authority of the supply of cheaper rice has further exacerbated the already-difficult situation of consumers because prices of the staple have steadily increased.

“With the rising costs of basic goods and commodities particularly those consumed by the poor, there is a need for the Senate to look into how the Executive Department is addressing the problem of the decreasing purchasing power of our consumers,” she said.

De Lima also cited the admission made by Rep. Dakila Cua, a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, that the implementation of administration-sponsored TRAIN Law has already been marred with delays.

Cua claimed the distribution of social benefits cards to unemployed wage earners and the poorest 50 percent of the population lacked a definite timeframe, preventing the target beneficiaries from availing of discounts on fare and rice, and free skills training.

De Lima said her Committee would like to find out if additional and targeted social safety nets are urgently needed to be passed in order to mitigate the burden of the Duterte administration’s tax reform law to poor Filipino families.

“There is (a) need to determine the cause of this unconscionable delay and propose measures to ensure that the government assistance mandated by law reach our fellow Filipinos who have been the most adversely affected by the TRAIN Act,” she said.

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