MANILA, September 5, 2005
 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - Government revenue collection agencies exceeded set targets by P10.5 billion for the month of August, President Arroyo said yesterday.

This was an indication that the current political turmoil and rising oil prices have not paralyzed the government, she said.

"All the (news) headlines are about the political conflict and so we don’t notice the performance of our revenue agencies," the President said in a roundtable discussion with some members of her economic team and the House of Representatives, aired Friday night over government-run NBN-Channel 4.

"So this is what I want to say: The government is working. We are governing and we are performing so we hope the people will understand this and they will not allow political bickering to bring down the economy," she stressed.

Mrs. Arroyo commended the economic team for being right on track and above targets.

"The average person gets up everyday and is concerned about their children, their home, their job. They are not concerned about the musical chairs of politics. They want answers and results," she said.

In a statement, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) exceeded its collection target for the month of August by P3.3 billion, reversing its shortfall in July amid intensified collection efforts.

Preliminary data showed BIR revenues for the month reached P55.1 billion against the goal of P51.8 billion.

For the Bureau of Customs, initial data showed a shortfall of P600 million in August.

Customs Commissioner Alex Arevalo however expressed confidence that reforms within the bureau, which includes having extra working days for its operations, would improve customs collections.

"We are now on a six-day workweek. Last Saturday, we were able to raise P130 million on top of our regular weekly collections and we predict that this is just an initial figure that is bound to increase as more clients do business with us on Saturdays," Arevalo said.

The Bureau of Treasury continued its strong performance, exceeding its target by P8 billion. Other revenue items were short by P200 million.

This brings the revenue surplus to P10.5 billion in August, Bunye said.

With this, the President said she will "continue the process of reform which will end years of economic challenge, put our fiscal house in order and improve the lives of all Filipinos."

Turning to her political detractors who have been calling for her resignation, Mrs. Arroyo noted that "while others pray for my downfall, I humbly seek divine guidance to do what is best for our people."

"The huge budget surplus of P10.5 billion for the month of August alone is a strong indicator of effective governance at work," she said in a statement released through the Office of the Press Secretary.

"My political detractors will say and do anything that would cast doubt on my sincerity and ability to lead the country."

The political opposition joined by other sectors have been urging the President to step down for having lost her credibility to lead the nation amid allegations of electoral fraud and receiving payoffs from illegal gambling.

But according to Bunye, the choice lands squarely on the President’s critics "to join the people on the boat of stability and prosperity or keep boring holes in the hull."

Goals To Be Met?

The President, in her special broadcast at NBN-4 reporting the revenue surplus, was joined by Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, BIR officer—in-charge Jose Maria Buñag and Representatives Wilhelmino Alvarado of Bulacan, Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, Corazon Malanyaon of Davao Oriental, Consuelo Dy of Pasay, Eduardo Roquero of San Jose del Monte and Janette Garin of Iloilo.

Teves said the sustained intensified collection efforts by the government would help ensure the attainment of P180 billion deficit goal for the year.

Buñag, for his part, expressed optimism that the BIR will hit its P574 billion tax collection target before yearend.

"The BIR’s target in 2004 was a 16 to 20 percent increase. Now we have already collected P325 billion. I think we will do it," the BIR chief said in an interview with Vice President Noli de Castro’s radio program yesterday.

"Gumaganda ang ating collection," said Buñag, citing the P55 billion collection from taxes in August was "record-breaking."

He attributed the agency’s higher tax collection to the improvement in management techniques, close monitoring of voluntary collections and the increase in excise tax which was passed by Congress early this year.

He said that a large part of the tax collected last month came from different regions in the country.

In the NBN-4 broadcast, the President thanked lawmakers for passing revenue-generating measures such as the higher taxes on "sin products" like alcohol and cigarettes, the lateral attrition law and the expanded value added tax law, whose constitutionality has been upheld by the Supreme Court but not yet implemented until a final decision is reached on the issue.

The House opposition questioned the EVAT law before the SC.

The lateral attrition law provides a system of incentives and penalties for employees of the BIR and the BOC. Employees who exceed their collection targets get a share of the excess; those who miss them may be fired.

The law is expected to raise up to P30 billion a year because of the expected improved performance of the revenue generating agencies in collecting taxes and duties.

The President said that during her State of the Nation Address in 2004, she asked Congress to pass revenue measures that would give the government P80 billion in order to solve its fiscal crisis and be able to spend more on basic social services.

"Before, our tax collection reaches only about P700 billion, what happens is that P300 billion goes to debt servicing, P250 billion goes to the salaries of government personnel while P150 billion goes to the local governments for their IRA (internal revenue allocation) so there is nothing more left for infrastructure and social services," the President said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the only way for the government before was to keep on borrowing to finance its expenditures and other programs.

"We really need to get out of this cycle (of borrowing) so we need to have new taxes and the new biggest source of funds is the EVAT," the President said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the government would get P15 billion from the sin taxes, P10 billion from the lateral attrition law and P120 billion from EVAT.

"I asked for P80 billion from Congress and they gave me more. So I am really thankful to them," she said.

The President she had personally monitoring tax collections, especially when there would be a large drop in targets. But now she said she was satisfied with the performance of the collection agencies. — With Pia Lee-Brago

Arroyo cites gov't economic team for 3B peso-budget surplus 09/03 3:46:56 PM

President Gloria Arroyo Saturday lauded her economic team in the wake of reports that the National Government posted a budget surplus of nearly three billion pesos in August according preliminary data from the Department of Finance (DOF) showed yesterday.

Government revenue exceeded public spending in April for the first time in four years and last month’s surplus was the third this year.

In a statement read by Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye, he said, "The President commends the economic team for being right on track and above targets."

"The recent budget surplus and collections are signs of things to come --greater fiscal stability, deeper business confidence, more investments and jobs," Bunye said.

He noted that, "This is also an indication that our people have their sights on the economy and are doing their best to shore it up."

Because of this, he called on critics to help out: "It is time to cast partisanship aside and ride the momentum of our economic gains – for a better infrastructure, education, energy and water, and social and health care."

"The choice lands squarely on the President’s detractors – to join the people on the boat of stability and prosperity, or keep boring holes in the hull," the presidential spokesperson said said.

As this developed, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) reported they had surpassed its collection target for the month of August by 3.3 billion pesos, reversing its shortfall in July, amid intensified collection efforts.

In a press release, preliminary data showed BIR revenues for the month reached 55.1 billion pesos against the goal of 51.8 billion pesos.

For the Bureau of Customs, initial data showed a shortfall of 600 million pesos in August. The Bureau of Treasury continued its strong performance, exceeding its target by eight billion pesos. Other revenue items were short by 200 million pesos against target.

This brings the overperformance in revenues to 10.5 billion pesos in August.

"The improved revenue performance alongside the commitment to implement tax reforms shows the government’s resolve to put its fiscal house in order," Finance Secretary Gary Teves said.

He added that sustained intensified collection efforts will help ensure the attainment of 180 billion peso-deficit goal for the year.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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