Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino yesterday said the Senate will definitely not allow a hasty shift to a federal system that would have dire consequences on the country’s economy, with the Filipino people already reeling from the rising prices of goods.
Aquino, who is on a two-day visit to Bacolod City for sectoral consultations, noted that the Duterte administration’s economic managers themselves at a Senate finance committee hearing Wednesday, had warned of the consequences of a shift to federalism now.
The country’s investment grade credit ratings will “go to hell” if the proposed shift to federalism proceeds, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told the Senate committee.
The shift will also be too costly for the government and may disrupt the economy’s growth momentum, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia was also quoted as saying.
Aquino said members of the Senate have agreed not to rush charter change.
It is clear the Senate will not finish its deliberations on the proposed shift to federalism by next year as it needs careful study, and the May 2019 elections will push through, he said.
Aquino said he supports the creation of a Negros region, composed of Negros Occidental and Oriental along with Siquijor, that he believes is economically viable but there are many aspects of the draft federal Constitution that could have dire effects on the country.
How will government fund all the new layers of government that will be created under a federal system? he asked.
The draft federal constitution focuses on political change but what the people want is economic upliftment, he said.
We need to find ways to bring prices down and for people to have jobs, he said.
Instead of working on TRAIN ( Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) 2, Aquino said the TRAIN 1 needs to be addressed.
He is pushing for the passage of Senate Bill No. 1798, or his "Bawas Presyo Bill", which seeks to suspend the excise tax on fuel under the TRAIN 1.
Aquino pointed out that while the Filipino people are already reeling from the rising prices of fuel and high prices of goods now, another increase in the excise tax on fuel will happen on January 2019 and third round in 2020 under the current TRAIN law.
There is nothing that can be done about the rising oil and dollar rates, but a TRAIN rollback will mitigate the situation for the Filipino people, he said.
In Aquino’s sectoral dialog at the Central Market in Bacolod City yesterday morning, representatives of the market vendors, urban poor, fisherfolk, trisikad drivers and small farmers, all aired complaints about their worsening plight with the rising prices of goods.
Ludy Villarias of the Kongreso ng Pagkakaisang Maralitang Lungsod said the people should not leave the work to halt the TRAIN law to the country’s lawmakers, they should unite in the call for it to be stopped.
Aquino said he was holding sectoral consultations in markets around the country that are the centers of commerce to hear the concerns of the people, in aid of legislation.
Aquino said it would be hard for the country to move on to TRAIN 2 when the people are faced with a lot of problems brought on by TRAIN 1.
TRAIN 2 will remove incentives on industries that could drive investors to leave the country and cause the loss of jobs for thousands of Filipinos.
Even a 5 percent downturn in the BPO industry would cause the loss of 50,000 jobs, he said.
He noted that the Japanese and Korean chambers of commerce in the country have already aired their concerns about TRAIN 2.
If TRAIN 1 caused the rise in prices of goods, TRAIN 2 could cause the loss of jobs, that is why it should be studied very carefully, he said.
Aquino also said he and a lot of other senators are opposed to the restoration of the death penalty.
He pointed out that Pope Francis last week said the death penalty is not acceptable in any form.
The debate on the restoration of the death penalty will be long and he does not think it will pass, he said.
Aquino will speak at a youth forum at the Colegio San Agustin – Bacolod Auditorium set 8:30 to 10 a.m. and a dialog organized by Paghimud-os, a coalition of sectoral groups opposing Cha-cha and federalism, at the St. John Vianney Hall of the San Sebastian Cathedral, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. today.*CPG
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