7, 2010 (STAR) By Alexis Romero  - The administration party’s presidential bet Gilberto Teodoro said on Friday he will push for revenue-enhancing measures and improve tax administration to limit this year’s deficit within the range of P260 billion to P270 billion if he gets elected.

“Right now, my deficit range is just to reduce it to about P260 billion to P270 billion. But the range should be to balance the budget by 2014,” he said during a briefing with the Defense Press Corps in Greenhills, San Juan.

Teodoro’s target is lower than the P293-billion shortfall projected by the Development Budget Coordination Committee for 2010. Economic managers, however, are more optimistic in terms of closing the fiscal gap as they expect this to be attained in 2013.

Teodoro, the national chairman of the Lakas-Kampi Christian Muslim Democrats, said the deficit can be reduced through a combination of administrative and legislative measures.

“You have to plug the collection loopholes. But after you do these, you may think these are not enough. I will only approve taxes if these are imposed on consumption,” he said.

The former Defense chief said he will not favor additional taxes on corporate income since the current rate of 30 percent is already too high.

“We have the highest income tax in the world and it is not competitive already… That (consumption tax) is the only item we can tax,” Teodoro said in Filipino.

Teodoro said he is in favor of expanding the items slapped with value-added tax, which is a type of consumption tax. He said he is also open to reviewing the so-called “sin taxes” or those levied on tobacco and alcohol.

He, however, said proposed tax reforms should not be enforced this year since the country is still reeling from the global downturn.

On the expenditure side, Teodoro vowed to sustain stimulus programs designed to protect the poor sectors from the impact of the global economic slowdown.

“The social stimulus being implemented by the government should be expanded,” he said.

During the height of the global financial crisis, the government floated a P330-billion stimulus that consists of various tax cuts, budget increments and additional benefits from social security institutions. Officials have cited the need to hike spending for important items such as infrastructure and social services given that this year’s recovery is expected to be weak.

Teodoro reiterated that the government may not be able to achieve its goal to balance the budget in 2013 as it needs to provide assistance to sectors affected by the El Niño phenomenon.

“We have to assist the farmers. We have to spend to help them or we might experience hunger… We do not know how far El Nino will go,” he said.

Authorities had previously estimated that the El Nino may cause losses of as much as P15 billion in the agriculture sector.

Consumer group doubts power supply crisis in Mindanao By Donnabelle L. Gatdula (The Philippine Star) Updated March 07, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - EmPower Consumers Alliance has raised doubts on government‘s pronouncements of a power supply crisis in Mindanao, saying it could be a play to force the use of nuclear energy and raise power rates.

Upon the recommendation of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, President Arroyo on Friday declared a power crisis in Mindanao. She has also adopted the energy chief’s recommendation to invoke Sec. 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act allowing Congress to authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under terms and conditions that it will approve.

Some parts of Luzon like Metro Manila have also been experiencing rotating brownouts lately due to an alleged power shortage in the grid.

“First of all, we doubt the veracity of claims by the Department of Energy and Malacañang that there is power shortage in the country,” EmPower said.

According to the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), a co-convenor of EmPower, there is still a huge energy surplus in the country, citing DOE figures for year 2008 which indicate a surplus of about 4,000 megawatts based on 13,049 MW dependable capacity and peak demand of only about 9,054 MW.

“We have a growing suspicion that the energy crisis could be hoax and just being created by the government to justify he need for nuclear power plants in the country and to enter into new contracts with the independent power producers (IPPs),” said FDC secretary general Milo Tanchuling.

“What the government should do instead is conduct a technical review of National Power Corp. plants especially the IPP plants,” he added.

Instead of giving emergency powers to the President, the group instead called for an “immediate and thorough investigation and participatory planning.” 

The umbrella alliance of electricity consumer groups urged Congress – before it even considers granting emergency powers to the President or allow government to enter into ominous contracts with the independent power producers (IPPs) to address the so-called power crisis – to instead conduct a thorough investigation of the energy situation in the country, stressing the participation of electricity consumers in this process.

“The participation of electricity consumers in decisions that address the present energy situation is very important since we are always made to bear in the end the impact of these decisions. We do not want a repeat of the solution to enter into contracts with IPPs even when they were so onerous and to the detriment of the public” emphasized EmPower.

In Mindanao, the Lanao Power Consumers Federation also raised doubts on the energy crisis claim by the government. “The power shortage may be true, but we are also in

the dark as to the real truth on the energy situation in Mindanao,” its president Melchie Ambalong said.

“For all we know, this situation is being manipulated to increase power rates since this power shortage scenario has long been painted to us and the government saw justification for this with the present El Nino,” he added.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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