FOR a local business leader, the increase in National Tax Allocation (Nata) is equivalent to billions of pesos that will be poured out to local government units (LGUs) and could be used for economic development and recovery as well as improvement of social services, education and health.

According to Frank Carbon, vice president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) for the Visayas, the Nata, formerly known as the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), will be increased by 35 to 40 percent beginning this year, as provided by the Supreme Court ruling on the Mandanas-Garcia petition.

Carbon, also the chief executive officer of the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), said the additional budget for LGUs, could address the disconnect between the national gross domestic product (GDP) growth and well-being of the people.

"This could make the LGUs autonomous in their development policies and directions," he said, adding that "hopefully, it will eliminate the wide income gap between the rich and the poor."

The business leader also expressed optimism that the increased allocation will reduce unemployment, mitigate the negative effects of climate change such as flooding and drought, shift infrastructure development from the National Capital Region to Mindanao and Visayas, and improve social services such as basic education and health.

Carbon said PCCI chambers could work closely with the development councils, provinces, cities and municipalities in the development of investment directions.

Carbon stressed that infrastructure projects will create more jobs, while flood control and irrigation projects will minimize the harmful effects of climate change.

Subsidies for small business, farmers and fisherfolk, he said, will also create jobs and increase food supply.

The direction is also geared towards the improvement of basic education and medical services, the business leader said, adding that "this narrative will be our basis for our economic agenda that we will put forward to our elected local officials."

Carbon also pointed out that the local election is as important as the national election.

"Our elected local officials could make the regions less dependent on the National Government and officials for economic and social development," he said.*