Diokno bucks tax reform suspension

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 30 2018 11:24 AM | Updated as of May 30 2018 03:27 PM

Diokno bucks tax reform suspension 1
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno speaks at a briefing on the ongoing construction of the Quezon City Circle Station of the MRT-7 in July 2017. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/FILE PHOTO

MANILA - Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Wednesday tax reforms could not be suspended midway since revenues from the new duties help fund government programs.

Higher duties on fuel are also not entirely to blame for rising pump prices, Diokno said, adding world prices reached $135 per barrel under the Arroyo government.

"I think we should be less of a crybaby. We are not going to keep this money in the treasury. We are going to benefit from this. It is for the poor," he said, adding he did not want to sound too controversial.

Inflation reached 4.5 percent in April, fanning calls for the government to at least roll back additional duties on petroleum products.

The law provides for the suspension of future increases in excise taxes on fuel if the price of Dubai crude reaches $80 per barrel.

"You cannot make adjustments midway. It took us quite some time before TRAIN was approved. And it would not be smart for us to reconsider at this time," Diokno said.

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN raised duties on fuel, sugary drinks and cars to offset a reduction on personal income tax rates and help fund the government's P8 trillion infrastructure program.

Diokno said he was "disappointed" with the pace of the rollout of unconditional cash transfers for the poor, which he blamed on the change in leadership at the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Raising the minimum wage to help the poor cope with inflation could raise the unemployment rate, he said.