Press Release
September 7, 2018


Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to get tough on inflation, saying that addressing the country's 6.4 inflation rate is more productive than obsessing over wiping out the political opposition.

"President Duterte would like to project himself as a toughie. Well, if he's really a tough guy, I challenge him to muster the needed political will to tame the country's rising inflation rate instead of wasting his time and energy, as well as valuable government resources, on trying to obliterate the democratic opposition," Hontiveros said.

"The real enemy is inflation. The so-called strongman should get tough on inflation, not the opposition," Hontiveros stressed.

The opposition Senator said that Duterte's intesifying attacks against the opposition are part of a design to mask the deep negative impacts of the unmitigated inflation and his government's incompetence in addressing the economic problem.

"President Duterte's persecution of political oppositionists is a desperate attempt to divert public attention away from the negative effects of untamed inflation. Sorry, Mr. President, but it's not working. The inflation rate is just too high for people to get distracted. Sound economic policies, not the assault on democracy, will address inflation," Hontiveros asserted.

Hontiveros urged the Duterte government to implement six (6) policy prescriptions to help the public dodge the negative effects of the economic slowdown.

1. HALT AND REPAIR THE RUNAWAY TRAIN LAW. Halt further taxes on fuels mandated by the TRAIN LAW until inflation is brought under control. Use the excessive revenues generated by the Bureau of Internal Revenues (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) from high-priced fuels in the past months to finance the widening and strengthening of the safety nets. Additional support must be provided to poor families with more members, especially those earning less than the minimum wage -- these do not benefit from the reduction in the personal income tax.

2. SHIFT IN RICE POLICY. Lowering the price of rice has to be the priority of policy through a shift from quantitative restrictions to moderate tariffs if necessary, but certainly with more timely imports even under the present regime. This must be done while providing protection to and ensuring the competitiveness of Filipino farmers.

3. SPEED, SPEED, SPEED. There must be "speed, speed, speed" in the government's "build, build, build" program, even as we judiciously scrutinize the loans that were acquired for the said big-ticket infrastructure projects. It must also prioritize the hiring of Filipino workers. With trillions of pesos worth of infrastructure projects, they can create thousands of direct and indirect jobs. Special focus on infrastructure spending in irrigation can also quickly help address the high cost of domestically produced rice.

4. WAGE INCREASE. The state must help workers receive a higher take-home pay to increase their purchasing power. With the unforseen rise in inflation, wages must be responsive to today's economic reality.

5. CASH TRANSFER TO ALL 10 M POOR FAMILIES. Ensure that the poorest 10 million Filipino families receive the government's unconditional cash transfer, regardless if a family is a beneficiary of the social pension scheme for senior citizens or not. Bigger families deserve to be compensated to a greater extent and it would be unjust if there will be those belonging to the poorer half of the roughly 20 million Filipino households who are denied the unconditional cash transfers.

6. CUT THE VAT. The government should certify as urgent the passage of Senate Bill No. 1671 otherwise known as the "Bawas VAT" bill to provide relief for the lower economic deciles of the population affected by the TRAIN law by lowering the existing VAT rate to 10% from the current 12%.

"We in the opposition offer these constructive and progressive proposals to collectively address the economic crisis. We do this even as we continue to hold this government to account and defend democracy. That is the mature and productive way of doing politics," Hontiveros ended.

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