By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
“I don’t feel being alluded to.”
Thus, said Charito B. Plaza, director-general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), when asked to comment on President Duterte’s pronouncement Tuesday that the next in line for termination was someone from the economic cluster for being “not at par.”
In a hastily called press conference, Plaza reiterated her plea to exempt PEZA from the Corporate Income Tax and Incentive Rationalization Act (CITIRA) Bill, which seeks to replace the 5 percent gross income earned (GIE) tax with the corporate income tax regime.
Plaza has been vocal about her opposition to the tax incentive overhaul proposal of earning the ire of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, chairman of PEZA.
“I don’t feel being alluded to. It is my job and my responsibility to protect the interest of our investors because we are in legal contract with them and the Filipino people,” Plaza said.
But when asked for reaction if in case, she was indeed the one being alluded in the President’s speech, Plaza said she was ready.
“I am ready, but knowing the President he is fair and just and he listens so before he can make announcement I hope he would give me time to hear our side because what he heard have been one sided or biased,” she added.
Among the investment promotion agencies that may be affected by the CITIRA bill, only PEZA was the most vocal in its position.
“I am the only one speaking, I don’t know if they are afraid or bullied because nobody speaks up in behalf of the people’s interest and our companies,” said the military reservist with the rank of Brigadier General.
Plaza also lamented that she was not given the chance to personally meet with the President to air their side on the CITIRA Bill hinting there must be some people blocking her way.
She said they have sent four or five requests since last year, the last one was last August, for an audience with the President but to no avail.
“I’ve heard people blocking, so I hope and pray the President will give us a day in court because there are lots of misinformation and bias information,” she added.
Plaza also said that Lopez also has not been attending PEZA Board meetings except his representative. As PEZA chairman, Plaza said she hoped that Lopez should be on the side of PEZA. Lopez, however, would like to align with the Department of Finance, who spearheads the government’s comprehensive tax reform program.
She also said that there was no transparency in the filing of the CITIRA Bill and PEZA was not even consulted about it.
“These investors are already here and the feeling is we are penalizing them and making things complicated for them,” she said.
Meantime, Lopez, who along with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, was named top three performing Cabinet Secretaries urged Plaza to “stop accusing me just to sensationalize the issue.”
“The policy direction is very clear, discussed and approved in the Cabinet and therefore mandated by PRRD. In making those statement, she is going against the President’s policy direction. We are for time bound performance based incentives. Maybe she doesn’t understand that those principles are very rational economic principle that government policy makers must adhere to. After hearing the inputs from locators, we also made representations in many fora and discussed this internally with concerned agencies, to have a longer transition to soften the landing,” said Lopez in a text message to reporters.
PEZA zone developers and locators support Plaza.
F. Francisco Zaldarriaga, president of the Philippine Association of Ecozones, said on rumored removal of Plaza:” I hope and pray that this is not true. DG Plaza has been doing a remarkable job trying to improve our country’s investment attractiveness. Taking a position on this CITERA bill is merely her way of protecting the various investors who have put in so much in this country and generated an aggregate of over 1.5 M direct jobs.”