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Mayor Lani Mercado Revilla and LGU officials of Bacoor City;

The top taxpayers of Bacoor City;

Co-workers in the government;

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening to all of you, and thank you for having me.

Tonight we honor the good taxpayers of Bacoor City for their role in boosting the development of Bacoor and the nation as a whole.

Through this gathering, we also want to encourage the taxpayers to continue trusting that the government will spend people’s taxes on nation-building, and help in creating a bright future for our children, and our children’s children.

Many Filipinos actually do not fully understand what taxes are for and where they go. It is a sad reality that taxation as a civic duty and its critical role in running the nation is not taught in schools, and this contributes to the lack of understanding of how the government works

At its most basic, it is taxes that pay for the construction and maintenance of bridges, airports and seaports, ensuring that we travel safely, comfortably, and speedily. Taxes pay for the construction of hospitals and schools, for the purchase of learning materials, for the running of social programs that benefit not only the poor but every citizen, directly or indirectly. Taxes also enable the citizenry to enjoy the benefits of a secure and safe environment as it pays for the salaries of the police, firefighters, and soldiers, for the upkeep and maintenance of public places, and for disaster preparation and emergency expenses during times of calamities.  As the popular legal principle goes, taxes are the lifeblood of the government.

The lack of understanding on the significance of taxes of many citizens, the cumbersome process of paying personal income taxes for many professionals, and the feeling that we don’t get value for the amounts we pay are some of the factors that contribute to our country’s serious and rampant problem of tax evasion.

In fact, a few years ago, it was reported by the BIR that there’s a “90 percent tax evasion rate” among many professionals in our country.”[1]

According to BIR’s data, the government collected around P9.8 billion in taxes from the 1.7 million professionals in 2010, when, based on their income levels, the government should be collecting more or less P100 billion.

The same is true for many business owners and their corporate taxes. Early this month, the BIR filed with the Department of Justice P205-million tax evasion complaints against three Metro Manila-based companies.[2]

So imagine the many national programs that could have been funded and implemented had we been able to collect the taxes due from all professionals and corporations.

But enough about those problems. I want to seize the opportunity and talk about some of the government’s projects, especially the current and the upcoming ones, in order to give a clearer picture of where the taxpayers’ money will go. Our hope is that the programs and projects which the Duterte Administration proposes will encourage everyone to become honest and diligent taxpayers and support the government’s initiatives

I.        Freedom of Information

One of our goals is to make the government transparent and accountable to its citizens. Thus we are strongly pushing for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) law.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), is heading this and has recently conducted the conference #FOIKnowMore. The conference aims to “deepen the engagement between the government and reform partners on program emphasizing transparency, accountability, and citizen participation.”

How will the Freedom of Information law help citizens and improve government service?

At present we have Executive Order No. 2, the Freedom of Information Act, signed by President Duterte in July last year. This “implements a policy of full public disclosure of all [government] transactions involving public interest,” and operationalizes in the executive branch of the government.

If there is something you want to ask your government, you can simply go to the official website of eFOI at foi.gov.ph and request for information from the 108 government agencies enrolled in the system, including the Department of Budget and Management.

Passing into law the Freedom of Information bill will empower citizens. It will give citizens access to information; it will compel the entire bureaucracy to be open and accountable to its citizens.

II. Philippine Open Government Partnership – National Action Plan

This leads us to another of our current projects which is the Philippine Open Government Partnership (PH-OGP) National Action Plan for 2017 to 2019.

We have posted online for public viewing and examination the National Action Plan.  This contains the government’s commitments towards transparency, giving voice to citizens, battling corruption, and utilizing modern technology for improved governance.

I am inviting you to view and scrutinize the National Action Plan. If there is anything you think needs to be added into the commitments, please communicate this with our Philippine Open Government Partnership Secretariat.

Some of our commitments for 2017 to 2019 are the strengthening of civic participation in local planning and delivery of basic needs and services to our citizens. This is through the program Assistance to Disadvantaged Municipalities led by the Department of Interior and Local Government or DILG.

We also have a program, the Game plan on Competitiveness: Ease of Doing Business, headed by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), which aims to simplify and speed up doing business here in our country.

To improve our government’s capacity to respond to the needs of our people, we have the 8888 Citizen’s Complaint Center, led by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary.

Those are just few of our commitments in the 2017-2019 National Action Plan, and your taxes go to these programs and initiatives of the government. Again, I am inviting you to view and examine our Action Plan. It will be accessible online until June 29. Afterwards, we will submit it to the International Open Government Partnership.

III. Comprehensive Tax Reform Program

I said earlier that Filipinos are encumbered by the tedious process of filing taxes, and not just taxes, but many other administrative processes like obtaining business permits. I also said that Filipinos complain that they don’t get the value for their money, besides feeling like they are left with nothing after paying high taxes.

The Duterte Administration understands how these problems hamper our development and prevent Filipinos from living a comfortable and financially secure life, thus we are working hard to solve them and make things simple and fair in our country.

On May 3, the House of Representatives passed the first tax reform package. The swift passage of the Comprehensive Tax Reform shows that this is a priority of the government.

We have been enduring an outdated and inefficient tax system. In fact, our 19-year-old tax system has the second-highest income tax rate and the highest corporate tax among our ASEAN-6 peers.

Through the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), the government aims to increase the take home pay of Filipinos.

Furthermore, the tax system will be simplified. Income tax rates will be cut for most of us while the income tax rates for the richest 1% of society will be revised so that those who are able to pay more will carry the burden of taxation.

IV. Build, Build, Build

One of the lofty goals of the Duterte Administration is to reduce poverty from 21.6% in 2015 to 13%-15% by 2022. And one of the reforms that will move us closer to this goal is the “Build Build Build” program, the ambitious infrastructure program for the Philippines.

The 2017 budget for national infrastructure is P847.2 billion and we plan to increase this budget yearly. In fact, we plan to spend around P8-9 trillion for public infrastructure from 2017 to 2022.

Let me give you a brief update on a few of the ongoing, completed, and future projects of the Duterte administration.

On May 30, the government started the construction of two additional stations to LRT 2, or the LRT 2 East Extension Project.

We will extend the eastern end of LRT 2 towards Antipolo: we will add the Emerald Station, located in front of Robinsons Metro East and Sta. Lucia Mall in Cainta; and the Masinag Station, located near Masinag Junction in Antipolo.

Through these additional stations, the usual three-hour bus or jeepney ride from Recto to Masinag will be reduced to 40 minutes. This project will be completed on August next year.

We will also extend LRT 2 on the other end: Recto station will be linked to new stations going to Pier 4. The construction of Tutuban, Divisoria, and Pier 4 Stations will start before this year ends.

The NAIA Expressway is now open. This connects NAIA Terminals 1, 2, and 3, Cavitex, Skyway, and Entertainment City. The usual one hour travel from SLEX to NAIA is now reduced to 20 minutes.

DPWH has also recently completed the feasibility studies for the construction of Metro Cebu Expressway which costs P50 billion, thus the government can begin the right-of-way acquisition followed by the actual construction of Metro Cebu Expressway next year.

Through the Metro Cebu Expressway, the three-hour travel from Naga City going to Danao City is now just one hour and 25 minutes.

We recently approved three rail projects: the Tagum-Davao-Digos (TDD) segment of the Mindanao Railway Project; the North South Railway Projects (NSRP) South Line; and the Malolos-Clark Railway Project (MCRP).

The Tagum-Davao-Digos segment will run from Tagum City, Davao del Norte to Digos City, Davao del Sur. This will form the first phase of the proposed 830 km Mindanao loop. Once confirmed by the NEDA Board, construction will start in the first quarter of 2018 and is expected to be completed by third quarter of 2022.

Next is the NSRP-South Line which will connect Tutuban to Los Banos, Laguna, and from Los Banos to the Sorsogon in the Bicol region. A third track will connect the Port of Manila to FTI in Taguig.

Just this Monday, June 19, the DOTr started the PUV Modernization Program. From the outdated and unsafe condition of our public utility vehicles, we want to improve them to make travelling secure, comfortable, and fast for our citizens. Some of the DOTr’s proposals are to use cleaner engines and to place safety and security features in the new PUVs, such as a curbside entry for safe and easy entry and exit, anti-lock brakes, and a speed limiter. The DOTr is also pushing to have the modern PUVs fitted with automated fare collection system and CCTVs.

We are making progress in our ambitious plan of building the first subway system in our country, the Metro Manila Subway. The plan, which was prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is to have 13 stations starting from Mindanao Avenue up to FTI in Taguig, making it possible to travel from Quezon City to Taguig in just half an hour. DOTr is working to have the subway operational before the end of President Duterte’s term in 2022. So in five years you can expect that we have this modern, world-class subway system serving millions of commuters every day, making travelling comfortable and fast.[6]

The new Puerto Princesa Airport opened last month, on May 3, and is now ready to serve the thousands of local travelers and tourists wanting to explore Palawan. The airport, at 13,000 square meters, is almost six times bigger than the old one. It has a seating capacity of 15,000 and can accommodate two wide-bodied and four small aircrafts simultaneously.[7]

On May 18, President Duterte himself led the inauguration of the 750-kilometer Governor Miranda Bridge II, connecting the Municipality of Carmen and the City of Tagum in Davao del Norte. This infrastructure is expected to significantly boost agricultural development in the region as it allows the passage of large cargo trucks containing harvest.[8]

The DPWH is also working on the Capas-Botolan connector road in order to complete it by November this year. Now almost 70 percent done, the connector road will allow travelers to go from Tarlac to Zambales in only 1 hour and 20 minutes, cutting in half the usual 3-hour travel time.

I am especially glad to be reporting to you some government projects here in Cavite.

On April 21, the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) in partnership with the DOTr started the construction of the Cavite Barge Gateway Terminal located in Tanza, Cavite, and the first container barge terminal in the Philippines. The terminal is part of a grand design to decongest Metro Manila’s roads. It will result to 140,000 fewer truck trips annually. The terminal is expected to be operational on the first quarter of 2018.[10]

Last Monday, June 19, DPWH held the groundbreaking ceremony for the Cavite-Laguna Expressway. The project aims to create a safer, faster, and more comfortable route between Bacoor and Kawit, Cavite and the Laguna and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). The four-lane, 44.63 kilometer expressway will start from CAVITEX in Kawit and end at the SLEX-Mamplasan Interchange in Biñan. It will have interchanges in eight locations, namely: Kawit, Daang Hari, Governor’s Drive, Aguinaldo Highway, Silang, Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road, Laguna Boulevard, and Technopark.[11]

The project is seen to support and provide efficient transportation between Cavite and Laguna and reduce traffic congestion in Governor’s Drive, Aguinaldo Highway, and Sta. Rosa – Tagaytay Road.

To the top taxpayers of Bacoor, and all citizens of your good city, keep on paying your taxes, honestly and diligently. Keep on trusting that your government is spending your taxes on the right programs and projects. Don’t mind all the political noise. Instead, let’s work as one and focus on having a better, safer, fairer, wealthier, and more beautiful Philippines.

Maraming salamat at mabuhay kayong lahat!

Delivered by Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno on June 21, 2017