MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday signed into law the PHP3.767-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2018 (RA 10963) and the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act (RA 10964), which he said are the fulfillment of his campaign promise to institute genuine fiscal reforms that would be felt by every Filipino.

In his message after the signing ceremonies, Duterte said that the implementation of these laws would serve as the government’s initial step towards cutting the poverty rate at 14 percent and making the Philippines an upper middle class country by 2022.

“The 2018 budget, which is 12 percent higher than last year’s budget, will primarily support infrastructure development and free education in state universities and colleges, universal health care, free irrigation, and the maintenance of peace and order across the country,” he said.

In the 2018 GAA, the Department of Education (DepEd) has the largest allocation with PHP553.3 billion.

Among those with the highest budget allocations are: the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) with PHP170.8 billion, the Department of National Defense (DND) with PHP149.7 billion, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with PHP141.8 billion.

“This will also fulfill my campaign promise of doubling the basic pay of our soldiers and police officers which will take effect on the very first day of 2018,” Duterte said.

In the meantime, the President said that the passage of TRAIN is “the administration’s biggest Christmas gift to the Filipino people as 99 percent of the taxpayers would benefit from the simpler, fairer, and more efficient tax system.”

He cited the income tax exemption of those earning below PHP250,000 as one of the most significant breakthroughs of the TRAIN law.

“The law also addresses long and overdue corrections in our tax laws and introduces a more progressive tax system for the rich and the poor, contribute to give better services to our people,” Duterte said.

The tax reform package aims to bring in PHP120 billion in additional revenues to the government coffers - with 70 percent of the expected revenues earmarked for the administration’s infrastructure program and 30 percent for social services.

“Revenues from the TRAIN will fund our priority projects to ensure a quality education, including free tuition in state universities and colleges, equally, quality health care, social protection and conditional cash transfers, improved infrastructures to the Build, Build, Build program and the reconstruction of Marawi,” the President said.

The Chief Executive however said that the passage of RA 10964 forms only the first of five parts of his administration’s comprehensive tax reform program.

He ordered the Department of Finance (DOF) to ensure the effective implementation of Package 1 of TRAIN and to immediately submit to Congress Package 2 of the tax reform program when the Legislature resumes session next year.

Package 2 of TRAIN deals with corporate income tax and is seen to complement the revenues of TRAIN.

Meanwhile, President Duterte thanked the bold and decisive efforts of his economic managers and Congress in crafting his administration’s spending and tax plan.

"The passage of 2018 GAA and TRAIN is not just a victory for the legislative and executive branches of government, it is a victory for our people,” he said.

“It is my sincere hope that these measures will not just chart our spending and tax agenda in the coming years but will also embody a new hope for the Filipino,” Duterte said. (PNA)