Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chair of the House committee on ways and means, assured the funding source for the P500 subsidy for poor families ordered by President Duterte in lieu of suspending excise tax amid rising oil prices.
Salceda said the funding source for the subsidy could come from existing budgetary items and augmentation of items funded by dividend remittances and other non-tax sources.
The president earlier approved a P200 cash aid to poor families but in a speech on March 21, he raised the amount to P500, saying he had received feedbacks it was “too small and cannot sustain even a family of three”.
The move to provide for a monthly fuel subsidy came alongside Duterte’s decision to retain the excise tax on different fuel products.
Salceda, who was one of the leading proponents of the cash aid, said the government could provide the P500 aid amid the fuel price crisis, noting that the budget is fundable so long as the government can expand fiscal space in general through higher value added tax collections.
“I am confident we can afford this relief measure while maintaining our fiscal space. I continue to work with the BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue] and BOC [Bureau of Customs] to ensure that we can close tax loopholes and improve revenue collections using existing tax laws,” Salceda said in a statement.
The lawmaker said the election ban may also have caused the discontinuance of some items, so the Department of Budget and Management will have to do a “sweep” of which items can be declared as “savings.”
“I continue to keep in touch with the economic managers on this. UCTs (unconditional cash transfers) were reiterations of what we suggested in November 2021, so I’m thankful that the President adopted this recommendation,” he said.
Salceda, however, said that part of the implementation will spill over beyond June 2022, which means that the next administration will have to work with the current economic team to ensure that these programs are properly transitioned and sustained.
“Fiscal space will also remain a foremost concern for the next administration, especially given our pandemic-related fiscal constraints,” Salceda said, stressing that “the monthly subsidies will be immediate relief for struggling Filipino households.”
“We recommended this in November 2021 in a committee hearing attended by the economic agencies and reiterated the same during the first hearing of the ad hoc committee on the fuel price crisis, which I co-chair. We welcome the announcement that it will be done and that it can be funded,” he said.