FOLLOWING President Benigno Aquino III’s issuance of Administrative Order No. 31 (AO 31), which authorizes all government offices and attached agencies to adjust rates for various government fees and charges, several government agencies are expected to increase document and service fees, data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reveals.
According to the 2013 Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF), the budget agency is expecting a P1.5 billion or two percent increase in government nontax collections for fees and charges next year, from the current P67.9 billion to P69.5 billion in 2013.
“DBM data reveals that the government indeed intends to collect more from fees and charges next year, in consonant with AO 31,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino said.
Palatino has earlier criticized Aquino for ordering government agencies to adjust and increase fees, calling the move “insensitive to the plight of the poor.”
AO 31, which was signed by Aquino on October 1, directs and authorizes all “heads of departments, bureaus, commissions, agencies, offices and instrumentalities of the national government, including government-owned and/or controlled corporations, to rationalize the rates of their fees and charges, increase their existing rates and impose new fees and charges.”
Based on the 2013 BESF, DBM expects several government agencies to increase nontax revenue collections, including fees and charges for several government services and documents.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, for example, is expected to increase by 10 percent its income from visa services (from the current P420 million to P462 million in 2013) and authentication services (from the current P430 million to P473 million).
Collection from clearance fees from the National Bureau of Investigation are also set to increase by 4.2 percent, from the current P545 million to P568 million next year.
One of the agencies which DBM expects to earn more income next year is the National Statistics Office (NSO). According to the 2013 BESF, government income from NSO fees, permits and license incomes is set to increase by 16.6 percent, from the current P543 million to P633 million.
“Such projections clearly indicate that the government expects increased income next year. And in the light of AO 31, we know that this will be done by increasing government fees and charges,” Palatino said.
The youth solon explained that such increases would have “far-reaching effects,” especially for Filipinos applying for jobs both in the country and abroad. “At present, Filipinos already find it expensive to secure essential government documents. What more if government agencies increase charges?” Palatino said.
‘Lacierda is turning tables’
In a press briefing last Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda defended AO 31, explaining that increases in government fees and charges as a result of the new order will be “reasonable” and will lead to “improved public service.”
However, Palatino maintained his position on the issue, saying that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that vital government services remain affordable.
“If the government wants to improve services, it must not pass the burden to the already toiling public. An increase is still an increase – and AO 31 is simply not acceptable in a country where poverty remains to be a major problem,” the youth solon said.
Palatino also slammed Lacierda’s snide remarks, calling Palatino and critics of the administration as “populist” and even telling the youth solon to “read first” before criticizing.
“The president’s spokesperson has again reacted in a childish manner. Of course, we study issuances before we criticize. Hindi kami katulad ng Malacanang, na naglalabas ng mga palisiyang gaya ng AO 31 na parang hindi muna pinag-isipan kung paano nito maaapektuhan ang karaniwang mamamayan,” Palatino said.
“Remaining firm on our stance against anti-people policies is not populist. Let me remind Lacierda what it means to be populist – it is to flip-flop on issues, depending on public opinion. Just as what P-Noy and his cohorts have done on many issues, such as the recent Cybercrime Law,” Palatino said.
Withdraw AO 31
“If P-Noy has any concern at all for the Filipino people, he should recall AO 31 and stop passing the burden of maintaining efficiency in government to the public,” the youth solon said.
“Instead of increasing fees, why not improve efficiency by ensuring that people’s taxes are put into good use?” Palatino said, citing the Commission on Audit’s recent report that the government has lost some P101 billion to corruption, inefficiencies and irregular expenses in 2010.
“There are many ways to make government transactions more efficient without passing the cost to the public,” Palatino said.
“The government has even been pushing for the digitization of government documents, which would supposedly bring down the cost of transactions. Why push for fee hikes? Before the government orders for new fee hikes and charges, it should first account for all fees that it has collected in the past years,” Palatino added.