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Critics assail President Arroyo's 'VAT-full' SONA

July 28, 2008 6:30pm
MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's detractors on Monday took turns in criticizing the 57-minute State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the chief executive, which was filled with explanations on how the controversial expanded value added tax (e-VAT) helped the nation cope with the global economic crisis.

An umbrella organization of activist lawyers, the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), said that Mrs Arroyo's SONA "was a very long defensive statement for e-VAT and a poor attempt at presenting success stories in various parts of the country."

In a text message sent to GMANews.TV, lawyer Marlon J. Manuel, ALG coordinator, said that by offering a "hodge-podge of palliative reliefs," Mrs Arroyo countered her own SONA statement that the country needed long-term reforms to be able to rise from the rut amid the crises on food and fuel.

Leftist umbrella organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) also assailed Mrs Arroyo's SONA saying that it was "spoken by someone who seemed to be from another planet and detached from reality."

Renato Reyes Jr, Bayan secretary general, said that it was "ridiculous" that VAT was seen by the President as the solution to the worsening poverty among majority of Filipinos, when "it is clearly anti-people."

Leftist party-list representatives also criticized the "VAT-full" SONA of Mrs Arroyo, and said that again, the people failed to hear the reforms they wanted from the government.

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said his group was disappointed with the SONA because the President did not tackle the P125 wage hike; the P3,000 salary increase for government workers; and the junking of the Oil Deregulation Law and the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño echoed Mariano's statement, saying that Mrs Arroyo failed to articulate the aspirations of poor Filipinos in her latest SONA.

Even Senator Edgardo Angara was not satisfied with the President's SONA, saying the subsidies from e-VAT "though good, are not sustainable."

The VAT Reform Law gives the President the power to increase the VAT rate to 12 percent if (1) VAT collection-to-gross domestic product ratio for 2005 exceeds 2.8 percent or (2) if the national government deficit-to-GDP ratio for 2005 exceeds 1.5 percent.

The following goods have been subjected to the new VAT: coal, natural gas, and other indigenous fuels; petroleum products and their raw materials; power; electric cooperatives, domestic transport of passengers by air and sea; medical services; legal services; cotton and cotton seeds; non-food agricultural products; and work of art, literary works, and musical composition. - with reports from JC Sisante, GMANews.TV