[PHOTO AT LEFT - EVAT PROTEST: A Manila policeman chases away protesters on Nicanor Reyes street in Sampaloc, Manila who tried to march to Malacanang yesterday to denounce the increase in the expanded value-added tax. Eight people were hurt and nine protesters arrested. - Photo By EDD GUMBAN]

MANILA, February 3, 2006, (STAR) Malacañang called for calm Thursday in the wake of protests against the Reformed Value-Added Tax (RVAT), which was implemented recently.

Police arrested nine members of a militant group when they tried to force their way to Malacañang during a rally against the expanded value-added tax (EVAT) yesterday afternoon.

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said, "The unrest being whipped up against the RVAT would only hurt the poor more."

"We are doing all we can to cushion the measure’s impact on prices and we need full support for strong price monitoring and enforcement," Bunye said.

He added that, "We also need support in our common fight against smugglers, tax evaders and economic saboteurs who prey on the hard-earned gains of the people."

President Gloria Arroyo raised the EVAT to 12 percent from 10 percent yesterday to raise more revenues for the cash-strapped government and revitalize the economy.

Likewise, administration officials appealed to critics and the opposition for sobriety, giving assurances that the tax hike’s impact on prices would be minimal.

Roxas asks gov't: Where will VAT revenues be spent? 02/02 1:43:35 PM

Senator Mar Roxas Wednesday called on the administration’s economic team to present a master plan on how it intends to allocate billions in new revenues arising from the full implementation of the Value Added Tax Reform Law.

Roxas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, noted that information on how these funds will be utilized comes in bits and pieces during presidential events as part of the President’s remarks.

“The people deserve to know the big picture when it comes to the VAT Reform Law. As of today, the roadmap is not that clear. Where will these new revenues go? How much will be for rice and noodles as against more classrooms and better roads? The government must inform the people of its plans and be open to suggestions from the private sector,” he said.

According to Roxas, the government is expected to raise about P100 billion from collections in VAT and an additional P81.4 billion with the increase in the rate of VAT to 12 percent from 10 percent.

Rather than spending more on dole-outs, the senator said the government should focus on projects with long-term benefits such as improving public hospitals and building more roads and classrooms.

“The people are entitled to tangible benefits from the additional taxes that they pay to the government,” he said.

Roxas emphasized the need for the passage of the proposed 2006 national budget to ensure that the additional revenues will be spent properly on projects that will be beneficial to the public.

“The passage of the proposed 2006 budget is an assurance that governance and economic programs are on track. It is actually the best roadmap there is for the year ahead,” the senator added.

Roxas, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce said it is important for the government to convert the country’s economic gains into real benefits for the people.

“Government economic managers may continue to trumpet rosy economic figures, but these are just numbers that do not mean anything yet to ordinary Filipinos. We must have clear benchmarks of performance in both revenue collection and public expenditures for better social services arising from the VAT Reform Law,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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