Sunday, November 25, 2012

Legarda: Help Farmers Adapt to Climate Change, Achieve Rice Self-Sufficiency

MANILA, November 25, 2012-In light of November being National Rice Awareness Month, Senator Loren Legarda reiterated her call for 100 percent rice self-sufficiency through public awareness and government incentives and support.

“Irrigation, high-yield seeds and modern post-harvest facilities are badly needed if the Philippines is to achieve 100 percent rice sufficiency. By providing incentives and support, the government would entice more Filipino farmers who had shifted to high-value crops to plant rice anew,” she explained.

“This National Rice Awareness Month, we should look into providing farmers post-harvest equipment and facilities like threshers and grain dryers in order to reduce their production cost and lessen grain losses,” she said.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, also said that the scarcity of rice supply is being made worse by climatic factors like prolonged dry spell and, on the opposite side, floods, which is why attention must be paid to climate resilience in farming regions.

“Crop yield potential is estimated to decline by 19% in Asia toward the end of the century and rice yield in the Philippines would decline by 75%. These alarming figures alone tell us that the country’s agricultural  adaptation  program  must  ensure  more  investments  in agricultural  research and infrastructure,  improved  water  governance and  land  use  policies,  better  forecasting  tools  and early warning systems,  a strengthened  extension  system  that  will  assist  farmers  to  achieve economic diversification  and  access  to  credit  to  make  significant  improvements  in  our  food security goals,” she remarked.

The Senator also noted that the Department of Agriculture’s current “Sapat na Bigas, Kaya ng Pinas!” campaign, which urges Filipinos to try equally nutritious food such as white corn, sweet potato, cassava, and banana as rice substitutes, as well as brown rice, is of great help to the goal.

“President Aquino has declared 2013 as the National Year of Rice. This is a chance for us to step up, as the Philippines must endeavor to meet its own rice requirements without resorting to importation, and, having done that, to aim to become a rice exporter,” Legarda concluded.

Support of Regional Dev’t Councils snowballs Christmas bonuses, allowances below P60,000 should be tax-free

MANILA, November 25, 2012-Sen. Ralph G. Recto today reiterated his proposal to raise the tax exemption ceiling on Christmas bonuses and 13th month pay to P60,000 from the current threshold of P30,000 to give more spending power to employees celebrating the holiday season.

Recto said the tax imposed on bonuses and allowances exceeding P30,000 is outdated since it was pegged when the basic salary scale of state employees was only P2,800 and the salary of the Philippine President was only P25,000.

Currently, the basic pay scale of government employees is P8,287 while the salary grade of the chief executive is P120,000.
“This is the kind of a one-tier increase that all advocates and lobbyists – foreign-funded or not – should be  championing,” he said.

Recto stressed that slapping a tax on bonuses and allowances that exceed P30,000 is tantamount to treating a job well-done  a “sin” and employers’ generosity  a “felony.”

“A worker bound to receive a little more than P30,000 in bonuses and allowances should not be penalized with a tax. The tax is essentially a disincentive for workers aspiring for a higher pay scale that naturally comes with generous perks and bonuses,” he said.

The 1997 National Internal Revenue Code Section 32(B) Chapter VI states that private and government employees having bonuses beyond P30,000 were automatically subjected to income tax.

Recto’s Senate Bill 2879 seeks to shatter the threshold of P30,000 so that bonuses and allowances up to P60,000 would be exempt from income tax.

The senator said if inflation is factored in, the P30,000 tax exemption ceiling is practically worth P15,000 today as computed by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), which he chaired before getting elected to the Senate in 2010.

The proposed measure and other important Senate bills were the 'collateral damage' of the recent impeachment trial. Congress is racing against time to pass a new sin tax law and enact the P2- trillion 2013 national budget before the Christmas break.

“With time running out for the approval of this bill, I could only look forward to  its serious consideration in 2013 in time for the next holiday season. And who would say that Number 13 is the unlucky number?” he said.

At least three Regional Development Councils (RDCs) have expressed support to the Recto bill, the latest of which is the RDC –National Capital Region. The first two RDCs are that of Region 2 and Region 6.

The RDC-NCR, in a recent meeting headed by Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, RDC-Metro Manila chair, even proposed a higher tax exemption threshold of P80,000 or P20,000 higher than the Recto proposal.

To fast track approval, the RDC-NCR will convene a Technical Working Group composed of the UP-NCPAG, labor leaders and Metro Manila LGUs to be assisted by the BIR, National Tax Research Center (NTRC) and Civil Service Commission. 

In his bill’s explanatory note, Recto argued that the prevailing ceiling for tax exemption “does not mirror prevailing circumstances and that the "ceiling of P30,000 does not apply today as it did when it was incorporated in the tax code."

“The law should always be responsive to the needs of the people. An increase in the ceiling of this particular tax exemption is one of the reliefs the people need during these difficult times,” Recto said. 


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