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PIA Press Release

Commentary: EVAT strikes most

By Jean Duron-Abangan

Tagum City (30 July) -- Of the multifaceted 8th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Gloria Arroyo, the Expanded Value-Added Tax (EVAT) has made a striking impact on key business and municipal officials in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

They may have "if's" and "but's" but most of them have agreed to stick to it as a means of delivering the nation from the world food and fuel crisis which the President has viewed as a "tsunami around the globe".

Ronald Bordios, president of the Tagum City Chamber of Commerce and Industry bared his talks with colleagues in the business community of Tagum the night after the SONA.

He said the President hit a point "when she said that EVAT is needed for the government to provide services to the people" especially the poor. "Naa siya'y punto ug kami nakasabot ana. (She has points there and we understand that)," he said.

However, he viewed it wise if the government could provide a transparent mechanism on spending the money from EVAT.

"There should be a multi-sectoral group which would look into how it is being used; and that there should be a way of monitoring disbursement of funds from EVAT," he said.

In her SONA, President Arroyo stood pat on retaining EVAT from which the government draws P80 billion for relief programs especially for the poor.

"Take away VAT and we strip people of the means to ride out the world food and energy crisis," she said.

But Bordios said the government might be having trouble with negative public perceptions regarding corruption if it will not subject EVAT funds disbursement to scrutiny of the multi-sectoral body which can be composed of the church, civil society, the business sector.

"In a way, this will improve the image of the government. Oftentimes, no matter how noble is the goal but if wrought with negative perception, the purpose would be defeated," Bordios said.

The EVAT immediately came out of the mouth of Compostela Valley Mayors' League President Rey Navarro (a national official of the League of Municipal Mayors in the Philippines) when asked about the 8th SONA of President Arroyo.

He said EVAT indeed brings a lot of help not only for the national government but even for the local government units.

But he said EVAT has remained "blurred" especially among the masses who he said, until now have yet to fully grasp deeper understanding about its benefits.

"(Dapat) maipalinawanag sa kanila nang husto kung paano nakakabenepisyo ang EVAT," he said.

Davao del Norte Municipal Mayors' League President Nestor Alcoran of New Corrella looked at EVAT as a burden to the people.

"Kay ang negosyante, dili man gyod na sila magpaalkanse. (The business people can't afford to loss)," he said referring to the normal consequence of passing on to consumers whatever government tax levied on businesses.

But he said people have to live with it as the President "is looking at the general situation that the nation is facing" and is taking it as a means of "addressing people's immediate needs."

He hoped EVAT will remain at its level and that the government would not raise it higher. "Steady na lang unta," he said.

Board Member Larry Caminero, president of the Municipal Councilors' League of Davao del Norte looked at the SONA as a statement of "political survival of the Arroyo Presidency."

In an interview, he may have hit the administration for falsely claiming that the country's economy is staying afloat despite the glaring poverty problem; he may have criticized the President for taking a dole-out approach but he said "it is too premature to alter EVAT."

"Let us give EVAT a chance," he said. "The Philippines could have still been a deficit-spending country without the EVAT," he added.

"EVAT has helped a lot especially in times of crisis", enabling the President to contain effects of immediate crises using the money coming it, he said. (PIA/JMDA) [top]

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