Bam Aquino urges gov't to hasten financial aid to the poor

By Audrey Morallo

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Sen. Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino urged the government on Thursday to immediately implement the financial assistance program for the poor to help them cope with the possible increases in the prices of basic goods and services due to the tax reform law. Senate PRIB photo

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino urged the government to hasten its implementation of the cash transfer program that would help lower-income Filipinos cope with the projected increases in the prices of basic goods and services because of tax reform law.

Aquino also scored the Department of Finance for failing to plan for the financial assistance scheme despite their vigorous push for the passage of the tax reform measure last year.

"If we are really serious in making TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act) positively impact the economy and our fellow Filipinos, this program that will help 10 million Filipinos, 10 million families, should be in place at the soonest possible time," Aquino said in Filipino an interview with ANC.

"We all know that TRAIN will be passed in 2018. They should have been working on this a year ago. I'm hoping that they can speed up the process of coming up with this program," he said.

READ:  Winners and losers: How the TRAIN law affects rich, poor Filipinos

Aquino said that the Department of Finance should have been prepared to implement the cash transfer assistance together with the new tax regime to cushion its impact on vulnerable sectors especially those will not benefit from the additional exemptions on income tax.

He explained that one reason he voted against the measure in the Senate was the uncertainty of the DOF's time of implementation of the program.

Initially, the DOF said that it was looking at implementing the program in September, but upon questioning by senators, it was adjusted to March, according to Aquino. Then on Wednesday, the timeline was pushed forward to February, he said.

"The point is why allow the increase of the prices of basic goods and services if the program that will help the poor is not yet ready?" he asked.

 Every day the transfer of the money is delayed, it means a day when some poor Filipinos go hungry, according to the minority senator.

"We go back to the Constitution and its principle of social justice. Is it just to allow the increase in prices for the poor without implementing a program that will help them?" said Aquino.

READ:  How the government plans to help poor Filipinos affected by TRAIN

Based on the recommendation of the DOF, TRAIN will provide a monthly cash grant of P200 in its first year of implementation, and this will increase to P300 in the second and third years to help beneficiaries cover the prices of basic goods.

Aquino's proposal for the immediate implementation of the financial assistance was rejected, leading to his vote against the tax measure.

TRAIN increases that amount of salary exempted from being imposed an income tax and compensates for the lost revenue through additional taxes on petrol and some sweetened beverages and the expansion of the base of the value-added tax.

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