Baguio receives ‘gifts’ from Duterte on Panagbenga opening

BAGUIO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte through Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr. on Thursday presented “gifts” to the people of this city, highlighting the opening day of the 23rd Baguio Flower Festival or “Panagbenga.”

“Nais kong iparating ang mga regalo ng ating Presidente (I’d like to present to you the gifts from the President),” Roque said who was the guest speaker during the opening day of the festival held at the refurbished Baguio Athletic Bowl.

On top of the list of the President’s “gifts” was the free tuition in all state universities and colleges all over the country.

Roque said the President was about to sign a law benefitting the farmers – free irrigation water system in farmlands in the entire nation. This was in recognizing the Cordillera’s contribution to the country’s production of highland vegetables and cut flowers.

Bukod po dyan dahil alam ng Presidente na ang Baguio at Benguet ay pinanggagalingan ng ating mga gulay at ating mga bulaklak, malapit nang mapirmahan ni Presidente ang libreng patubig para po sa lahat na magsasaka (Aside from that, since the President knows that Baguio and Benguet produce the country’s vegetables and flowers, he will soon sign the free irrigation water for the farmers) .”

Another gift, Roque added, was the proposed universal health care law that was now at the Senate, which aimed to fulfill the President’s promise in his first of State of the Nation Address (SONA) – free medicines and medical check-up for all Filipinos.

In a press conference at the city hall after delivering the President’s “gifts” to the people of Baguio during the Panagbenga’s opening program, Roque said the Duterte administration had continuously supported economic growth through the creation of a business-friendly environment conducive to the development of micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises in the country.

He said the Department of Trade and Industry and the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Development Council were pushing for the creation of more “negosyo (business) centers” throughout the country. These centers, which were under the supervision of the DTI, aimed to make doing business easy and services more available to the consumers. The centers also serve as meeting points for the DTI and the local government units.

Roque said there were four “negosyo centers” in Baguio and Benguet, two in Baguio.

Also, he adds, the farmers in the Cordillera, who produce about 80 percent of the country’s vegetable supply, stand to benefit from the new Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, the first package of the comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP) of the Duterte government.

The government, Roque said, sought to correct deficiencies in the tax system to make it simpler, fairer, and more efficient. It also included mitigating measures that were designed to redistribute some of the gains to the poor, he said.

TRAIN, Roque explained, would have a minimal effect on the livelihood of the farmers, as vegetables were not slapped with ad valorem taxes.

Magbebenefit mga magsasaka dito sa Cordillera dahil yung mga kumikita ng PHP250,000, wala na po silang babayarang buwis (the Cordillera farmers will benefit because those who are earning PHP250,000 are now exempt from tax).”

He said the additional funds collected from the implementation of the TRAIN law would be channeled to the building of more farm-to-market roads.

He pointed out the Department of Finance estimated that the TRAIN would only have a 0.7 percent effect on inflation, thus the infrastructure benefits and the tax exemption would be bigger for the farmers.

He also stressed that the recent hikes in fuel prices were due to increasing prices of crude oil in the world market, which was beyond the government’s control.

Roque was in the city as guest speaker for the opening program of the 23rd Baguio Flower Festival that would end on March 4.