MANILA, May 29 (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress on Monday to fast track a tax reform bill needed to raise funds that will soothe investors concerns over delays to a planned $180 billion infrastructure programme.
Congress has begun giving the bill a second reading, and Duterte wants the lower house’s immediate approval, though bills receive up to three readings.
“The benefits to be derived from this tax reform measure will sustainably finance the government’s envisioned massive investments in infrastructure, thereby encouraging economic activity and job creation,” Duterte wrote in a letter to Congress.
Duterte’s party holds a super-majority in the 292-seat Congress and a majority in the upper house, but the bill has run into some resistance, particularly over plans to raise fuel duties.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a memo to Duterte that he hoped the bill would be passed by June 2 following the president’s intervention.
The government has targeted infrastructure spending of 5.4 percent of GDP this year, rising to 7.4 percent of GDP by 2022, but the plan’s success rests on raising funds to pay for highways, bridges, ports, train lines and upgrades to airports.
Aside from raising fuel duties, the bill also proposes a reduction in the top income tax rate, removal of value added tax exemptions, simplification of the tax code, and changes to excise taxes on automobiles and other products.
The Philippines is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, though the 6.4 percent growth posted in the January-March quarter was the slowest since the last quarter of 2015. ($1 = 49.8120 Philippine pesos) (Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)