Press Release
July 28, 2008

Pia: No need for "fly-by-night" subsidies, implement social earmarking provisions of Sin Tax and EVAT Laws

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has downplayed the Arroyo government's much-hyped National Social Welfare Program, saying the short-term relief it promises to the people amount to "fly-by-night" subsidies that are shallow, low-impact and unsustainable.

"The national social welfare program is but the institutionalization of government's doleout system. This means erratic and short-term economic relief to a limited number of people, not necessarily the poorest of the poor."

At the same time, Cayetano reiterated her call on the President, the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management to immediately release the amounts earmarked for health, education, environment and agriculture under Republic Act 9334 (Sin Tax Law) and RA 9337 (Expanded Value Added Tax), instead of engaging in short-term subsidy programs such as "Katas ng E-VAT."

"The President should embark on a sustainable program if she is really keen on helping the poor. And she doesn't even need to be painfully creative about it since these programs are already provided under the law. Since when did doleouts become national policy for poverty alleviation?"

She pointed out that under Section 7 of the Sin Tax Law, 2.5 percent of incremental revenues from the EVAT should go to increasing universal coverage under Philhealth, while another 2.5 percent should go to the disease prevention fund of the Department of Health.

Furthermore, under Section 21 (D) of the EVAT Law, the government is mandated to allocate 50% of the share of local government units from incremental revenues of EVAT to the following: 15% for education, 10% for the health insurance premiums of enrolled indigents under Philhealth, 15% for environmental conservation and 10% for agricultural modernization.

"Unlike the current doleout programs, these earmarked funds are clearly mandated by law and could benefit the people on a sustained basis," added Cayetano, who chairs the senate committees on health and environment.

"I have been following this matter up with finance secretary Margarito Teves and other concerned agencies, but they have not given us any reply. It's evident that not a single centavo has been released under the social earmarking provisions three years since the passage of these laws."

"Windfall profits from EVAT, not only on oil but other commodities, and incremental revenues from increased sin taxes are better channeled to the national health budget to enable it to meet the recommendation of the World Health Organization, which is 5% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP)."

She stressed that any development program launched by the government should be geared towards achieving concrete and verifiable targets, such as the commitments of the Philippines under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

These commitments include cutting poverty incidence by half, ensuring full enrollment and participation in basic and secondary school, and reducing the country's high maternal and infant mortality rates.

"The current health budget comes to a measly 2-3 percent of GDP and this shows in how we have failed to meet our millennium development targets, particularly to improve health and education."

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