Imee Marcos seeks to 'defer' removal of tax incentives under CREATE bill

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2020 09:42 PM

Sen. Imee Marcos attends a hearing at the Philippine Senate on February 6, 2020. Voltaire Domingo, Senate PRIB/File

MANILA - Senate Committee on Economic Affairs chair Imee Marcos on Monday sought for the "outright deferment" of some provisions of a bill that would reduce incentives given to several businesses, saying the government needs to protect investors who have been creating jobs and generating revenue for the Philippines for several decades.

Marcos - an administration ally - is opposing portions of Senate Bill No. 1357 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, a Department of Finance-back bill which seeks to lower corporate income taxes in the country to 25 percent, but offset losses through the removal of some incentives given to long-time investors in economic zones.

"I speak once again on behalf of our exporters who will bear the brunt of the so-called 'rationalization' of the tax incentives," Marcos said in plenary.

"Let us not destroy the factories and corporations who have persisted through the years in manufacturing, services, finishing and kitting here with us in the Philippines," she said.

"Let us support those intrepid exporters who have struggled with us, for decades and through the COVID pandemic to employ hundreds of thousands of Filipinos," she said.

The export sector "has radically contracted" by 49.9 percent in April, a month after Luzon was placed on lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, the senator said.

"These companies neither produced nor operated, and are now perilously at risk of closing even as the COVID crisis continues," she said, noting that the electronics export industry has lost $90 million (P4.5 billion) in July alone.

Business process outsourcing (BPOs) companies - one of the employment generating sectors in the Philippines - will also be hit by the rationalization of incentives proposed under CREATE, Marcos said.

"While the BPO sector appears unaffected on the surface, with its workforce still intact, this sector has incurred enormous new expenses effecting work-from-home arrangements, mandatory shuttle services, health protocols and on-site accommodation for hundreds of their personnel," she said.

"An additional deprivation of tax incentives would render our country a costly and uncompetitive destination," she said.

If the Senate will not back her call for an "outright deferment of the so-called rationalization of tax incentives on Constitutional grounds," then the chamber should at least "review" several provisions of the revenue-neutral measure, Marcos said.

"Like the other senators, may I request a clarification of the ambiguities... of the process by which older firms can reapply for their lapsed original incentives," she said.

"In this pandemic, we must indeed take care of each other more and tax each other less, whether Filipino worker or foreign investor," she said.

In March, Senate Committee on Ways and Means chair Pia Cayetano - who is the sponsor of the CREATE bill - blasted Marcos for discussing the measure in a separate hearing with neither her knowledge nor consent.

Other senators have also urged Cayetano to create a "grandfather rule" that would exempt long-time ecozone investors from new tax rates under CREATE.