Salceda, in his explanatory note, emphasized the need to grant the Chief Executive “special powers in adopting a national policy in speeding up implementation of the BBB on or before 2022 or within a period of two and a half years.”
Michael Varcas/File
Emergency powers eyed for BBB projects
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Phillipines — President Duterte needs “emergency powers” to expedite the implementation of his massive infrastructure projects till 2022, particularly the stalled programs in the list of 75 priority projects, a key official of the House of Representatives said yesterday.

“I want to restore the faith of the people on the capacity of the state to prompt consequences on the lives of the people. I’m taking away any alibi by the administration not to deliver on the build, build, build projects,” Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said.

The chairman of the House ways and means committee vowed to file a bill for emergency powers if only to make the rollout of programs faster and remove roadblocks like right of way issues.

Salceda refuted the claim of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon that the Duterte administration’s BBB is a “dismal failure,” adding it is still “premature” at this point although he conceded that it is a “little bit slow.”

Salceda, in his explanatory note, emphasized the need to grant the Chief Executive “special powers in adopting a national policy in speeding up implementation of the BBB on or before 2022 or within a period of two and a half years.”

“This program has to be supported with an emergency power to fast-track the implementation as this would provide an inclusive growth, which means reducing poverty from 21.6 percent of population in 2015 to 14 percent by 2022,” he said.

The economist-lawmaker said economic growth will pick up and the country’s competitiveness in the international community will improve even more once the build, build, build program moves faster.

This comes on the heels of Salceda’s desire to impose a five percent tax on gross receipts of Philippine offshore gaming operations as well as a 15 percent income tax on its employees.

“A clear, definitive tax regime for POGOs will be a potent revenue source, as well as a means of placing these facilities under stricter oversight,” Salceda, a former NEDA director general, wrote in the explanatory note of his draft bill.

He estimated that with the five percent tax, the national government could rake in at least P20 billion from POGOs this year, compared to the paltry P8 billion the Bureau of Internal Revenue got in 2018 that was based on a two percent regulatory fee.

“Failure to faithfully report revenues and expenses will now unequivocally constitute tax evasion,” he told ANC’s Early Edition, reassuring the public that revenues from POGOs will be handled “judiciously so that we will earn from it.”

Out of 60 registered POGOs, only 10 have been paying taxes, Salceda disclosed.

The government so far collected P1.63 billion in withholding taxes from POGOs from January to August, the Department of Finance said, citing BIR data.

These online gaming firms paid P175 million in withholding taxes in 2017 and P579 million in 2018, the DOF said.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo also downplayed yesterday the criticisms hurled by fellow law fraternity brother Drilon on the administration’s infrastructure program.

“Sen. Frank, look at the administration you previously belonged. Six years and not a single infrastructure was done… It’s baseless because the administration has started a long list of construction projects,” Panelo said.

Panelo then read out the status of the list of infrastructure projects, which are pending under the administration.

Panelo also debunked Drilon’s statement on the state audit report that noted that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) released only 39.7 percent of their budget in 2018.

‘Not a failure’

Presidential adviser on flagship programs and projects and Bases Conversion Development Authority chairman Vince Dizon also expressed belief that the government agencies can do more than what they have been working on right now.

“Is Build, Build, Build a failure? Absolutely not, and the numbers speak for themselves. Construction is up; public spending on infrastructure is up, and this has led to faster economic growth,” he said.

“Are we doing enough? And we feel that we are not. We need to push for some more. We need to get more projects off the ground. We need to build more momentum,” Dizon added.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Dizon admitted that the government has been relentless but also diligent as regards the implementation of the program because the massive infrastructure projects. He noted that these should also help ease the burden of commuters and improve lives of the majority Filipino people in general.

Dizon also appealed for more understanding from the public since the projects will need more time to materialized.

Dizon said the priority projects have been updated to 100 flagship projects – a total of 38 projects ongoing while 32 commenced construction. There are 21 in the advanced stages of approval by the National Economic and Development Authority. The 38 ongoing projects are expected to be finished by the end of Duterte’s term.

Following a meeting yesterday with the infrastructure cluster, Dizon said the group revisited the list of the first 75 projects.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said some projects were removed from the lists after it was established during feasibility studies that they were not viable.

Opposition senators, however, disputed yesterday the Duterte administration’s claim that its much-touted “Build, Build, Build” flagship program was on the road to success.

Drilon said no less than reports from the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have pointed to the poor record of key agencies, including the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in spending for, and implementing infrastructure projects.

“The issue is the under spending and the fact that only nine projects (out of the 75 Build, Build, Build projects) have been started is just a manifestation of this underlying problem,” Drilon told reporters. – With Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero

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