Duterte pushes lower tax rates, free WiFi

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 25 2016 07:24 PM

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during his first State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress. Erik de Castro, Reuters

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday gave a rundown of his reform agenda which includes lowering taxes, solving traffic jams, and relaxing bank secrecy rules as he vowed economic growth that is felt by the poor.

In his first State of the Nation Address, Duterte said he hoped to leave an economy that is “much stronger” by the end of his six-year term in 2022.

“My administration will continue and maintain current macroeconomic policies and even do better,” he told lawmakers, top government officials and diplomats.

“We will achieve this through prudent fiscal and monetary policies that can help translate high growth into more and better job creation and poverty reduction,” he said.

A strong economy, Duterte said, is characterized by “solid growth, low and stable inflation, dollar reserves and robust fiscal position.”

TAXES, BANK SECRECY

Duterte said he would lower personal and corporate income taxes and shift to a “simpler, more equitable” tax system.

He did not elaborate, but his economic managers have said income tax rates could be lowered to 25 percent from as high as 32 percent.

“At the household level, there must be sufficient income for all Filipinos,” he said.

Duterte also said he would “relax” the bank secrecy law.

Last February, hackers shifted $81 million from Bangladesh’s foreign reserves to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and then laundered in casinos, taking advantage of loopholes in the country’s banking and anti-money laundering laws.

TRANSPORT WOES

Duterte asked lawmakers for “emergency powers” to untangle crippling traffic jams in Metro Manila and listed down his plans to improve commuting in the capital city of 12 million people.

"If you give it [emergency powers], fine; if not, we take the longer route, slowly, and tanggapin ko ‘yung pagmumura ninyo," he said.

The country loses P2.4 billion daily due to the traffic problem.

Additional powers may include doing away with public bidding for some projects and opening private subdivisions to traffic, according to his economic team.

Duterte said the transportation department would increase the number of trains on the Metro Rail Transit to 20 from the current 16 and increase train speeds to 60 kph from 40 kph.

Operating hours at the Light Rail Transit will be extended by an hour at night to 10:30 p.m. from 9:30 p.m.

The Pasig River ferry as an alternative mode of transport will be revived, he said.

General aviation will be transferred to Sangley Point to help decongest the main airport in Manila, and a railway will be constructed from the capital to Clark International Airport, an alternative gateway.

INTERNET, RED TAPE

Duterte ordered the drafting of a plan to install a national broadband infrastructure and said free wireless internet would be made available in public places.

He said he would reduce the processing time for issuing business permits and licenses "to the barest minimum," as he reiterated his order to crack down on red tape.

"In my city, it is always three days for local governments, that will bind the Office of the President down to barangay level," said the former Davao City mayor.

Motor vehicle plates should also be issued at the point of sale to prevent backlogs at the Land Transportation Office, he said.