While we at the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) welcome President Aquino III’s stand against increasing the regressive Value-Added Tax, we are appalled at his reasoning against income tax cuts. He could have grabbed the opportunity to review and reduce the unjust tax burden on ordinary Filipinos, particularly the fixed-income earners, but his line of thinking immediately jumps to calculating possible revenue deficits and how this would affect the country’s credit ratings.

Aquino III does not even bother to look at existing tax rates and tax brackets that have become passé considering today’s higher cost of living compared to 1997 when the rates and brackets were last determined. He is worried over the P30 billion lost revenue if income taxes are lowered but he is at ease with billions of pesos of forgone revenues due to fiscal incentives given to private investors. Worse, he remains resolute with losing billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money to service debts that are challenged as fraudulent, useless and/or wasteful.

For 2015 alone, out of the P372.9 billion appropriation for interest payments, P187.21 million will be paid for loans spent for the Tullahan (Sixth) Road Project, the Power Sector Development Program, the Pampanga Development Flood Control, the Bohol Irrigation Phase II and the Angat Water Supply Optimization. Another USD 28.353 million will go to principal amortization of these same projects. And these are just five questionable projects; more could have been revealed had Aquino III and his allies, like Budget Secretary Butch Abad, did not block FDC’s moves for Congress to conduct an Official Audit of all Philippine debts.

What compounds the problem with payments for illegitimate debts is that they do not undergo scrutiny of Congress because the law provision on automatic appropriations for debt service remains in place and continues to undermine the people’s power of the purse.

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The announcement made by Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chair of the House Committee on Energy, abruptly ending the House hearings on the review of Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) completely eliminated all possibility of amending, much less repealing this law by the current Congress despite strong public clamor.

Citing the strong opposition from national big business groups such as the Management Association of the Philippines ( MAP) , Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), inancial Executives Institute of the Philippines ( FEIP), and foreign chambers of commerce like the American Chamber of Commerce , European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, and the Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines to amending EPIRA, Umali was blatant enough to tell the public that the Aquino-LP majority in the committee considered the interests of the power oligarchs and the foreign corporate chambers much more important than the interests of the consuming public and the small and medium businesses.

 

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QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) staged a picket-rally to denounce the House Committee on Energy’s decision to cancel the hearings on the review of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

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Cong. Reynaldo Umali, chairperson of the House Committee on Energy, cited that there was a “strong opposition” from national big business groups such as Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FEIP), and foreign chambers of commerce like the American Chamber of Commerce , European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, and the Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

 

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QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Former Akbayan Representative Walden Bello, together with leaders of civil society organizations, called to cease the culture of special treatment that operates to favor special interests of select individuals and groups.

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In a press conference held at Icon Hotel last  August 31, Bello condemned the Supreme Court for breaching the criminal provision of plunder being a non-bailable offense when it granted the release on bail  of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile last August 18. The senator is facing plunder and graft charges related to the pork barrel scam.

“This is appalling legal acrobatics,” Walden said. “What Judge Lucas Bersamin is saying is that Enrile is entitled to special treatment. As Justice Marvic Leonen has rightly said in his powerful dissenting opinion, this is selective justice.”

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The dispute between the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the two water companies has finally spilled over to the Department of Finance (DoF). After failing to force the MWSS to implement a hike in water rates based on the December 29 2014 arbitral award, Maynilad decided to demand compensation from the government through the DoF.

The demand for compensation is based on letters of undertaking issued by the government in favor of Maynilad and Manila Water on July 31, 1997 and re-affirmed on March 17, 2010. The letters of undertaking are a form of sovereign financial guarantee which is often used by governments as an economic incentive for investors to go into certain projects. In this case the letters of undertaking provide for indemnification of any losses caused by a delay in the implementation of any increase in water rates.

In February this year, following the MWSS’s announcement that it would defer implementation of Maynilad’s rate hike, Maynilad sent Finance secretary Cesar Purisima a letter demanding the payment of P3.44 billion constituting lost revenue as of February 2015 and an additional P208 million for every additional month of delay. Manila Water followed suit and asked for P79 billion to cover projected losses until the end of its concession in 2037. Excluding the additional monthly losses being claimed by Maynilad, the current claims for compensation amount to a staggering P82.44 billion!

 

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