Press Release
May 12, 2021

CNN The Source Interview of Sen. Win Gatchalian on COVID response, West Philippine Sea and WFH tax cuts

COVID Response

Q: Let's begin the conversation, I first wanted to get your reaction doon po muna, meron na po tayong dalawang case ng variant from India.

SEN. WIN: Correct. This is a cause for concern and a case for us to take it seriously because learning from the past, if you remember last February, the virus variants came into our country and these variants were very contagious, in fact we felt it on the ground and we have to take this seriously, this variants were related to the fast phased spread in India. We have to make sure that we contain it as fast as possible.

Q: But here's the thing, Senator, 'yun pong dalawang case na nahanap galing sa Middle East. We're not even talking about the passengers who have had or who have had travel history in India or who had arrived from India or dumaan sa India, hindi pa po 'yun. These are two seafarers who actually arrived from Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

SEN. WIN: This is a very unique situation for the Philippines, for our country, Pinky. Because we have 10 million Filipinos abroad and majority of our OFWs that have six to one year contracts, they have to come back to the country. So it's a decision and balancing act because we cannot just shut our boarders immediately because we have OFWs coming in. We have to bring our OFWs back in the embassy but if the embassy gets infected, we have to tighten our quarantine procedures here in our country. So meaning tightening the traveling procedures, coming in to our country. Once the OFWs come in to our country, we have to make sure that they undergo very strict quarantine and monitoring. In my opinion, we cannot take this lightly because of the the contagiousness or the increased speed of infection with these new variants.

Q: There's also the possible decision whether NCR plus bubble will move into a more lenient GCQ from MECQ, what are your thoughts? kailangan na po bang maging mas lenient, mas magbukas ang industriya because that ends sometime on May 14?

SEN. WIN: Pinky, yesterday I was at the briefing of NEDA at PSAD and our economy shrank by 4.2%, and in that briefing, it's very clear that our economy is correlated with the quarantine levels that we put in place. For example, if it's stricter quarantine levels definitely our economy will contract. If we loosen it up, our economy will expand so it's directly correlated. So yesterday, to be honest about it after the briefing of NEDA and PSA, may initial thought is to go back to GCQ because the more we loosen it up, the more we will grow and the more jobs will create. However, that thought changed when I saw the new variant or the double variant landed, and again, going back to our experience last February and in March, these variants can be the cause of increased phase of infection in our communities and I recommend to extend the MECQ until the end of the month, until we contain this double variant.

Q: So extend muna tayo? Now that this news came up yesterday, na pagpasok ng Indian variant here in the country and of course, Sir, meron pa pong tsine-tsek doon sa container vessel that came from India and pass through a number of Southeast Asian countries.

SEN WIN: Pinky, actually one of the learnings that we all learned in the past is gatherings, eating out and get togethers, are the catalyst for infections. That's why in this new version of ECQ, we allowed almost everything except for gatherings, eating and get togethers and we can see the immediate effect, our reproduction rate went down, the number of cases went down, the attack rate, another matrix that we used went down, but more importantly, the occupancy of our hospitals also went down. So meaning we have space now for hospitals and ICU beds, so we can see that calibrated effect of the quarantine levels. So in other words, the dining in and gatherings are known as catalysts for infections and we need to keep this sharp for now because of this new variants.

West Philippine Sea

Q: Senator wanted to get your quick reaction on the President about this campaign promise of his regarding Jetski through the Spratlys, he said it was only a joke, ang tawag nga po niya dito ay bravado during the campaign, while you have colleagues who say that, the Senate President says oo, he knew it was a joke, but you have Senator Panfilo Lacson says sometimes it's hard to determine whether the President is joking or not. Did you see this as a joke when the President mentioned this during the campaign, the presidential campaign?

SEN. WIN: Well, Pinky, I want to go beyond the jetskis and beyond the bickering that is happening around the West Philippine Sea. The West Philippine Sea is part of the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, we have jurisdiction over that area, and more importantly we have rights to explore and to exploit the natural resources in that area. People might not know this but there's enough oil and gas there to power our economy for the next 700 years, because of its rich natural resources. I've been tracking down this resource for the past few years and it's really needed, those resources that are really needed to make sure that the economy grows. So in other words, we should explore and take advantage of the natural resources there. But having said that, it's very difficult for me to predict what's in the mind of our president, but what's certain for me are the actions and the statements of our DFA secretary and the statements of our DND secretary are very loud and clear for our exclusive economic zone. And these are the most trusted people of the president. So in other words, we are asserting our rights in that exclusive economic zone, and it's very clear to me that the country's asserting our arbitral award.

Q: Okay, so then let me do a follow up on that, just very quickly because Senior Associate Justice Retired Senior Associate Justice Carpio was saying that, to be able to do that, the President should do the following, say that China has no, or take back what he said that the arbitral ruling is just a piece of paper that should be thrown in the wastebasket and that China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea. Do you agree Sir that this has to be taken back because in a way, whatever the President says becomes the policy, a government policy?

SEN. WIN: For me, Pinky and this is my own analysis, there is a difference in strategy, some quarters will have a different approach on the West Philippine Sea. Obviously, the President and his team, I call it team because they're acting in unison in my analysis. They may come up in different degree, but in my opinion and analysis, there is a certain direction in their actions, and one of the most compelling with the President is when he addressed the UN General Assembly last year wherein he said that arbitral ruling cannot be diminished. No government, even after his administration can diminish the value of the arbitral ruling. So in other words, the President recognizes this, and the President recognizes the importance of the arbitral award.

Q: Are you saying that you are satisfied with how government is dealing with the issue in the West Philippine Sea amidst these incursions from China?

SEN. WIN: What's important for me is to assert our rights and jurisdiction in that area and one of the most compelling visuals and optics that I've seen lately was the assertion of our Philippine Coast Guard. Our Philippine Coast Guard was there, patrolling. In fact, the Philippine Coast Guard made that warning, the challenge and the warning against the incursions there in the West Philippine Sea. So my point of the matter here is, the actions are loud to me and the actions are something that we can see. This is what's very important in my opinion, it's a difference in strategy, but the direction is there. The president said that the ruling will not be diminished. It will not be thrown away, and in their actions from our government agencies in terms of protecting and asserting our jurisdictions in our exclusive economic zone.

Q: Yeah. So in summary, you're satisfied, Senator?

SEN. WIN: It's a balancing act. And so far I am seeing what the President have said in the UN GA and that UN GA is being translated to action, and the statement is being echoed by his alter egos in the DFA and also in the DND so it's a balancing act. There are things that we can improve, definitely. There are things that we can improve in terms of asserting, in terms of exerting, but that's a matter of strategy.

WFH tax cuts

Q: Okay, Senator, I need to shift topics. Ito pong plano ninyo, proposal to reduce, a reduction in that tax for work from home employees, could you please briefly tell us more about this. Paano po makikinabang ang mga empleyado na nagta-trabaho sa kani-kanilang mga bahay?

SEN. WIN: Pinky, I'll keep this very simple and I'll veer away from the complexities of the proposal but basically a lot of our constituents are working from home and especially, like here in the Senate, 50 percent of our workforce are mandated to work from home but we're not giving them. Their telecommunication expenses went up, their DSL expenses went up. Of course, by staying at home, you have other expenses going up like electricity and utilities. So in our proposal, those items that enable you to effectively work from home can be deducted from your income tax. So for example, if the business owner, or your principal are not inclined to support you with those amenities, you can claim this from government. So in a nutshell, it will encourage people to work from home, and it will not a burden for them.

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