POSTSCRIPT / November 3, 2019 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Tax officials’ perks, not the lowly ‘tuyo’

IT SEEMS the multibillions raised from higher taxes are not enough to support heightened government spending and the newly acquired expensive tastes of officials, so there is a renewed search for more ways of extracting blood from taxpayers.

Some health officials, for instance, are thinking of taxing such food items as tuyo and daing. These fishery items associated with the modest diet of low-income Filipinos are processed using salt, which is linked to some ailments – ergo, qualifying them as source of another “sin tax.”

(Tuyo’s being eaten mainly by the poor may have to be clarified, as a Business Class passenger on a Philippine Airlines flight will tell you after partaking of the gourmet tuyo that is served to homesick balikbayans who ask for it.)

The better known “sin taxes” are those slapped on such vice-related items as alcohol and tobacco, as well as sugary drinks, upon which heavier levies have been imposed on the theory that the resulting prohibitive price would cut addiction to them.

But on tuyo and daing? The insensitive idea of levying a “sin tax” on these items prompted us days ago to make the somewhat corny comment on Twitter: “It’s a SIN to tax even the DYING.”

We proposed instead that a 50-percent gross tax be imposed on all public funds being paid to or collected by senators, congressmen, Cabinet members and other high officials on top of their regular salaries.

If half of their allowances and perks is withheld at source, the collection would constitute a sizable chunk of the millions being paid to or spent by ranking officials, many of whom get habituated to a life of ease and luxury that lifts them above the masses.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo told the media in Malacañang on Wednesday that raising the taxes on salted food such as tuyo and daing was being considered for health reasons.

Domingo said they still have no guidelines on that “sin tax” option, but pointed out that excessive salt in the diet “is directly correlated to hypertension, heart disease and kidney problems.”

In the last Congress, a House bill was filed imposing a P1 tax per milligram of salt in junk food, canned goods and processed food in excess of one-third of the daily intake recommended by health authorities.

 Claims of Manila Water disputed

WE PRINT below excerpts from reactions to the letter of Jose Rene Gregory D. Almendras, president/CEO of Manila Water Co. Inc., explaining the firm’s failure to provide sufficient potable water and an adequate sewerage system for their customers in Metro Manila. See:

*a.socrates <> — Providing water supply is mainly the government’s responsibility because of its size and the need to exercise eminent domain over private property and communal lands, etc. Mr. Almendras was Cabinet secretary and one of the most influential advisers of then President Noynoy Aquino. Why did he not do anything to improve the water supply for Metro Manila? There are a number of feasibility studies and even potential funding available.

Mr. Almendras should not blame the government since he was a key part of it for six years. Maybe he should be a proactive reformer today by giving the public a blow by blow narrative as to why government did not improve the water supply. Is it because the decision-making process in government is based on crisis? No crisis, no action.

*arwin guste <> — I would not recommend encouraging your readers to use deep wells. Please research what happened to Jakarta and why it is sinking. (We have notes on this, but for lack of space we defer sharing them now. – fdp)

*Willy Segovia <> — Mr. Almendras says Manila Water “is compliant with Section 8 of the Clean Water Act and has connected households with existing sewage lines to sewerage systems available in 2009.” No, they are not compliant with the five-year deadline. RA 9275 was enacted March 2004. The five-year deadline lapsed in March 2009. That was 10 years ago. That’s why they have been fined by the Supreme Court. If they are compliant, they would not be fined.

(For reference, Section 8 of the Clean Water Act reads: Domestic Sewage Collection, Treatment and Disposal. — Within five (5) years following the effectivity of this Act, the Agency vested to provide water supply and sewerage facilities and/or concessionaires in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities (HUCs) as defined in RA 7160, in coordination with LGUs, shall be required to connect the existing sewage line found in all subdivisions, condominiums, commercial centers, hotels, sports and recreational facilities, hospitals, market places, public buildings, industrial complex and other similar establishments including households to available sewerage system. Provided, That the said connection shall be subject to sewerage services charge/fees in accordance with existing laws, rules or regulations unless the sources had already utilized their own sewerage system: Provided, further, That all sources of sewage and septage shall comply with the requirements herein.)

Mr. Almendras says “…and has connected to… sewerage systems available in 2009.” It is clear that Manila Water accepted responsibility for providing a sewerage system at the East Zone when they signed as concessionaire in 1997. They’re just disputing the deadline.

But they did not bother to build sewerage from 1997 to 2004 (seven years). Then RA 9275 came in 2004 and gave them a five-year deadline which they could not meet. (That’s 12 years in total). From 2009, another 10 years have passed. (That’s 22 years in total). Now they want it postponed until 2037 (That’s another 18 years or 40 years in total). They want 40 years to get this sewerage job done!

During these 40 years, meanwhile, Manila Water charges 30 percent of the water billed to subscribers for sewerage (disguised as environmental fee). That’s how billions are made, part of which they are now investing overseas, such as the 18+ percent equity they have acquired in the water company in Thailand.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 3, 2019)

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