By Billy Begas
House Committee on Ways and Means chairperson and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda on Friday said that the ambitious vaccination program and a recovery package with incentives for ‘health-affirming behavior’ through Bayanihan 3 will further strengthen the country’s prospects.
Salceda made the statement after Japanese debt watcher Rating and Investment Information Inc. (R&I) affirmed the Philippines investment grade credit rating of BBB+ with a “stable” outlook.
“This is a crucial vote of confidence. It also indicates that we have some room for fiscal maneuver. We can afford a more ambitious vaccination and relief program, through Bayanihan 3,” said Salceda, referring to the R&I rating.
Salceda said the Executive and Legislative departments agreed that lifeline measures are needed to feed the people and expedite vaccination. He said this will be done without resorting to borrowings.
“Just this week, I sent him my comprehensive recommendations on e-sabong taxes. The industry is willing to pay taxes, and we are collecting far too little under current laws, so it’s really an easy direction to take,” Salceda said.
Salceda also proposed to increase the dividend remittances of Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) and implement new taxes on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).
“We can keep our credit ratings strong if we pass fiscal reforms that help us pay for debt in the future,” Salceda added. “That’s why we’re working with the DOF to curb smuggling and tax abuse through administrative regulations. We are also working with them to pass the remaining packages of tax reform, which I think we can still do before 2022.”
He said the government should be careful and borrow only “what we can pay”.
Salceda added that the affirmation of the credit rating gave him more confidence that the government can finance the P141-billion direct appropriations under Bayanihan 3.
“We need to extend cash aid, because it helps people stay home and comply with COVID standards. I also suggested that we give cash incentives for getting vaccinated, because it will cost you one or two days of queuing and rest,” he said.