Civil society groups in the Philippines on Friday, September 23, joined the observance of the “Asian Days of Action on Tax” with a demonstration outside the Department of Finance office in Manila.
“Tax policies should be progressive and equitable,” said Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.
The Filipino activist said tax revenues “should be used to address poverty and provide for social services” especially amid crises.
Manjette Lopez, president of the group Sanlakas, said that while ordinary Filipinos are burdened with regressive taxes, corporations are freely permitted to shift profits and even encouraged to erode tax bases through “unnecessary fiscal incentives.”
In a statement, Lopez said even the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development “is attempting to accelerate this ‘race to the bottom’ by promoting a 15 percent minimum corporate tax rate globally.”
“We cannot let this happen,” said Lopez.
The activists called for a UN Tax Convention in support of Global South governments and civil society organizations from all over the world.
Proposals for a UN Tax Convention are aimed at reforming global tax systems to favor developing countries and to increase global tax transparency.
The groups argued that national and international tax and fiscal reforms under the Peoples’ Recovery agenda are urgently needed, pointing to debt crises and the collapse of public services in Global South countries such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
They said that to address inequalities and rebuild the country’s economy back from the pandemic, there should be a people’s recovery program that “[places] people’s rights and needs front and center, and [ensures] the inclusion and empowerment of the marginalized.”
The program calls for the country’s tax burden to be shifted away from working households, women and LGBTQI+, and other marginalized groups, and onto billionaires and large local and multinational corporations, which have seen record-high profits all throughout the pandemic.
The groups push back against recent tax reform programs pursued by the Philippine government that have lowered corporate income taxes while raising and expanding Value-Added Taxes.
They argue that this has contributed to the sustained rise in prices for basic goods and services which hit the poor and marginalized the worst.
The Peoples’ Recovery agenda advanced by the groups seeks to replace VAT with a 1 percent wealth tax on the assets of billionaires in the Philippines. The groups estimate that this will raise close to PhP300 billion pesos in revenue which can and should be channeled into healthcare, education, housing, and other basic public services.