MANILA - Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez on Thursday said economic managers would "fight" for the full passage of the government's P162-billion tax reform package by both houses of Congress.
Dominguez said he could not afford to go lower than P130 billion, the estimated revenues from the version that was passed by the House of Representatives last month.
The Senate needs to pass counterpart legislation and reconcile it with the House bill within the year to meet the government's target to implement the first tranche of tax reforms at the start of 2018.
"We want the P162 billion as much as possible and we will still fight for it. We respect the legislators in their wisdom," Dominguez told reporters.
"We think the package of P130 billion is about okay," he said. Asked if he could go lower than that amount, the finance chief replied: "No."
Dominguez reiterated the importance of tax reform to help fund President Rodrigo Duterte's P8-trillion plan to build new roads, bridges, railways and airports.
"This is the first time we are passing a tax reform for the future," he said.
"We have to pay for it," Dominguez said, referring to the infrastructure program. "We cannot just borrow for these things. It is important that we pay for it."
The House measure seeks higher duties on fuel, cars and sugar-sweetened drinks to offset a reduction in personal income tax rates.
The finance chief described as "overemphasized," concerns that the new taxes would spike consumer prices.
He said inflation picked up to 2 percent in January 2016 from a year earlier even as oil prices rose 75 percent during the same period.
Dominguez said the government would help the poor cope with possible inflationary effects.