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Marcos asked if he plans to raise taxes to fund priority programs

THE ADMINISTRATION has been asked for its funding plan for the priority programs spelled out by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. during his address to Congress delivered on Monday, particularly whether new taxes are to be imposed.

“The President has presented a very compelling vision of which the country should unite around,” Senator Francis Joseph G. Escudero said in a statement. “What follows is the hard part of funding those dreams.”

He was particularly concerned whether the Department of Finance will raise new taxes to meet its goals, which Mr. Escudero said will be a burden on the population.

During the President’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Mr. Marcos promised to modernize and upgrade the healthcare system. He cited plans to devolve to the countryside specialty hospitals currently located in the capital like the Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and Lung Center of the Philippines — all built during his father’s presidency.

He also promised to expand the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program through public-private partnerships, spurring economic growth in remote areas.

“Every government program carries a price tag, often hidden, while the purported benefits are highly praised. Lost in the euphoria is the fact that it is the people, and nobody else, who will eventually pay for them. The buck begins with the taxpayer,” Mr. Escudero said.

“How do they intend to fund the projects mentioned by the President? Will it be through new taxes or new borrowing? Will the people pay in pain right now through higher taxes or will the government just take out a mortgage on our children’s future?” he added. 

At a news conference on Tuesday, Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel called the economic roadmap laid out in the SONA “unclear” on the matter of how the targets will be achieved. 

“There are so many priorities but when the plan is that ambitious, the revenue generation should also be ambitious,” she said.

Mr. Escudero said a clear and comprehensive proposal should be made on the proposed value-added tax on digital services and e-commerce transactions.

“There is no doubt that the people have united behind the President’s articulation of their aspirations. But unity is soluble in taxes — high and unfair taxes,” he said.

Congress will soon begin budget deliberations for the 2023 General Appropriations Act. Mr. Escudero said he was looking forward to receiving the proposed P5.2-trillion national budget to judge the adequacy of the funding for the government’s program. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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