Sin tax bill certified as urgent by Aquino

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Clearing the way for the speedy “one-day approval” of the contentious measure, President Benigno Aquino III has certified as urgent the sin tax bill now being debated in the Senate.

The President cited “public necessity” in prioritizing the measure aimed at curbing harmful cigarette and alcohol consumption while also increasing tax revenues from these so-called sin products.

Under the Constitution, the President can certify bills as urgent in two instances—in case of public necessity and during a public calamity.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the certification, which the President made late Thursday, will expedite the Senate discussions and debate on the measure making it possible for the bill to be approved in one day.

“Normally, the second reading and third reading of a proposed law is tackled on separate days. The certification of the President will allow the Senate to have the second and the third reading on the same day,” she said.

The House of Representatives has already approved its own version of the sin tax measure.

Malacañang drew an endorsement of sorts for the sin tax measure from visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde, who told a Palace briefing yesterday that she hoped the bill would be voted on next Monday and that “tax collections will result from this piece of legislation.”

 

Faster than RH process

Sen. Franklin Drilon, the chair of the ways and means committee, said that with the President having certified the sin tax bill as urgent, he expects the chamber to approve the measure on second and third reading on Monday.

Malacañang’s move will make it possible for the Senate to do away with the three-day required interval between the second and third readings of the measure, he said.

The senators could immediately approve the bill on third and final reading on Monday right after its passage on second reading, he said.

This means the Senate will approve the contentious bill with little more than two weeks of debate.

By contrast, observers noted, the similarly controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, which provides for government endorsement and funding for artificial contraception, has languished in the Senate for the past 15 months as senators have yet to declare an end to the debate on the measure.

The Senate earlier agreed to hold afternoon-to-evening sessions so that the sin tax bill, whose additional target revenues have supposedly been incorporated into the 2013 budget, can be approved as soon as possible.

After the sin tax bill, the Senate is expected to focus its attention on the proposed P2-trillion 2013 national budget.

The government has allocated P54 billion in the proposed 2013 budget for the Department of Health to cover, among other things, the building and or repair of hospitals and rural medical facilities, and PhilHealth insurance premium payments.

Drilon said Mr. Aquino “believes the passage of this very important piece of legislation will buttress the government health agenda and address the high prevalence of smoking in the country.”

Substitute bill

Drilon took over the ways and means committee last month after the former committee chair, Sen. Ralph Recto, came up with a proposal that would have increased the take from sin taxes to only between P15 billion and P19 billion, against the P60 billion that Malacañang wanted.

Recto was severely criticized by administration officials after he reported out the bill.

Drilon has come up with a substitute bill that he considers to be a “good compromise,” with revenues from the increased sin taxes projected at P40 billion and P45 billion.

“We are in the final stretch … but, certainly, without the support of the President, we would not have gone this far,” he said.

“I am confident that our colleagues have seen and realized the importance of this reform measure to a great majority both as a health measure and as a finance bill. I am confident that they will vote for its passage when sessions resume on Monday,” said Drilon whose version drew support from 12 medical health groups last Thursday.

 

Crux of debate

The debate on the sin tax bill has centered on finding a middle ground on the following concerns: raising enough funds for the government’s universal healthcare program, discouraging smoking and at the same time providing safety nets for tobacco farmers.

The government intends to use the additional sin tax proceeds to finance the operations and repair of government hospitals and provide PhilHealth membership and benefits to 5.2 million low-income Filipinos.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, both from tobacco-farm-rich Northern Luzon, and Recto said they appreciate the government’s intentions but are also concerned about the economic future of tobacco farmers.

The three believe that these farmers will bear the brunt of the resulting higher prices of tobacco products. Additional sin taxes, moreover, could also cause the massive displacement of workers in tobacco-processing plants, they said.

Enrile also warned that the provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) could bar the Philippines, as a signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade of 1994, from raising taxes on imported cigarettes.

The bill’s author, Sen. Miriam Santiago, however, insists that the Senate should go even higher than the P40 billion to P45 billion compromise proposed by Drilon, insisting on the P60 billion additional revenues in her original version of the bill.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan was the latest to air his concern for tobacco farmers in a radio interview yesterday.

“I have nothing against the benefits of the sin tax bill but I am concerned about the thousands of tobacco farmers who will be uprooted and displaced by the taxation system. In three years’ time, the low-priced cigarettes will be taxed more than a thousand percent,” he said.

The new taxes will favor imported brands “while subjecting our local brands to a slow death,” he said.

 

Windfall tax vs telecoms

At the Palace briefing, Lagarde yesterday said she also agreed to taxing the windfall profits of the telecommunication sectors, although cautioning the government to move “one step at a time.”

Lagarde was specifically asked if the Aquino administration should also extend the tax hike to telecoms, particularly the excise tax on text messages (short messaging system), a position suggested by the IMF in a paper last March.

She said she was told during a courtesy call on Vice President Jejomar Binay earlier yesterday that “telephone” or “text coverage” in the country was way in excess of 100 percent.

“(This) was in the range of 112 percent, which clearly satisfies one of the two criteria for what we call a good taxation,”—a very broad tax base and a very small rate.

“This is a general principle, of course. Now, what matters of course is the possibility to raise revenue in as transparent a way as possible, with as much distributive effect as possible as well,” she said.

Binay had to pinch-hit for Mr. Aquino who was not feeling well when he woke up Friday.

Lagarde had been scheduled to pay a courtesy call on the President at Malacañang but had to go instead to Binay’s office at Coconut Palace.

Mr. Aquino instead worked from his official residence at Bahay Pangarap across the Pasig River.

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  • Ommm

    “The President cited “public necessity” in prioritizing the measure aimed at curbing harmful cigarette and alcohol consumption”

    A hypocrite could be defined as someone having a drink and smoke while conjuring up that statement…..

  • marionics

    isabay mo na rh

  • bryant85

    NOW THAT PNOY CERTIFIED THE SIN TAX AS URGENT BILL, THEN IT’S UNDENIABLE TO SAY POINT BLANK THAT HE IS A MORON WHEN IT COMES TO SIMPLE ARITHMETIC OF  A TIGER ECONOMY. . IF  AQUINO ISN’T A MORON OR AN IDIOT, THEN HE SHOULD HAD THROWN TO THE SEWER THIS SIN TAX BILL AND INSTEAD ISSUED AN ORDER TO BAN THE PRODUCTION OF CIGARETTES AND LIQUORS ON A SIMPLE BUT LOGICAL GROUND THAT THE EXPENDITURES OF THE GOVERNMENT ANENT THE HEALTH CARE PROGRAM ON VICTIMS OF CIGARETTE AND LIQUOR AMOUNTS TO 185 BILLION AND THE INCOME REVENUE DERIVED PER ANNUM IS A MOIETY SUM OF 45 BILLION PESOS, WHICH MEANS ARITHMETICALLY THAT THE GOVERNMENT IS LOSING 140 BILLION PESOS YEARLY AS PRONOUNCED BY KIM HENARES OF THE BIR.

    SINCE THE GOVERNMENT IS MISERABLY LOSING FROM THIS KIND OF OPERATION WHY IN HELL, IS PNOY SO STUBBORN TO HAVE THIS BILL PASSED?

    OH HO HO. SOMETHING FISHY, MR.PRESIDENT? 

  • $14334231

    ubos na ba ‘yong calamity fund mo, mr. president????

    • Francis81

       Ubos na ang pondo ng gobyerno kasi inubos dun sa impeachment ni Corona. P400 M bawat senador.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GEL5M676WZ7BLFR4SNH66WKRZM Bigboy I

    mabuti pa to na certify as urgent paano na FOI at RH bill!??? importante naman yun. 

  • nizgoda

    this is not about smoking or its effects to the environment or health.  this is about money. for the gove’t and supposedly for the  health programs and also for the politicians who want to have a share on this new racket.

  • disqusted0fu

    Aquino cant be any more obvious than this. actually, maybe he still can. anyway, of all the bills,  why does he have to put urgency on this? because its money generating? so the government will have more money to corrupt? whatever happened to the FOI bill which he promised to support for absolute transparency? why cant he put an urgency to that???

  • Mike Moreno

    ANG SIGARILYO AY MASAMA SA KATAWAN. ITO AY LASON NA MASARAP SA UTAK NG NANINIGARILYO. WALA ITO BINIBIGAY NA MABUTI. ANG MGA TRABAHADOR NA GUMAGAWA NITO AY DAPAT SA IBA MAGTRABAHO. ANG NEGOSYANTE NA NAMUMUHUNAN AY DAPAT MAMUHUNAN SA IBANG NEGOSYO NA MATINO. ANG BUMIBILI NITO IBA NA LANG BILHIN. ANG TAX NG GOBYERNO KIKITAIN DIN NILA SA IBANG PRODUKTO NA MAGAGAWA KAPALIT NITO.  Madami bata na naninigarilyo pero inutil ang mga opisyal ng gobyerno. Madami nakakanser sa 1st hand at 2nd hand smoke. malaki gingastos ng gobyerno sa pagpagamot ng mga sakit na dulot nito. ANG MGA NEGOSYANTE NA INVOLVED DITO AT ANG MGA ADDIK SA YOSI LANG ANG ME GUSTO NITO. GAWIN NATIN ANG TAMA PARA UMUNLAD TAYO AT PABORAN TAO NG PANGINOON.

    • boldyak

      masama ang sigarilyo at alak, kaya dapat pagkakaperahan ng gobyerno…hahahaha…at para magkapera, kailangan dadamihan ng mga tobacco industries ang mabebenta….kailangan dadami ang maninigarilyo kahit mahal para may pera gobyerno…hahaha..

  • boldyak

    binabraso na, pag pulamalpak nag bill na yan, hugas kamay lahat, dahil kulang sa pag-aaral…lahat minamadali…ang pag sampa ng kaso sa kalaban minamadali…panay sablay…

  • AbygeylValteh

    May chance ba na mahahabol pa ang sin tax? Of course! Iri-railroad yan ni Drilon dahil certified as urgent yan kanilang among si PNoy.

  • Guest

    Sabi nga sa saligang batas, balansehin lang natin yung mga interes na ito para yung mga may sakit at yung mabuhay ng mga tobacco farmers and growers natin ay hindi malagay sa alanganin.

  • Guest

    Unahin n’yo na muna ang FOI at RH bill kesa sa sin tax, mas mahalaga yun kesa sin tax. Pakiusap lang po.

  • UrHONOR

    NAKAKAGULO na talaga sa isipan yang SIN TAX na yan….ang dami-daming pinagsasabing kung ano-ano yang TNL na SIN TAX na yan.  MAAARi bang paki-usapan ang TNL na CBCP na sila na lang ang magpaliwanag kung ano talaga ang SIN TAX na ito?  Ito ba’y MORTAL SIN? VENIAL SIN? o CARDINAL SIN?  Please lang CBCP para mahinto na ang isang katerbang debatehan o pagtatalo sa paksang ito…..magpalabas na kayo ng CBCP BULL para matapos na dakdakang ito na napipiho ko na mananalo kayo sa pagtatalo… dahil parati kayong nananalo at panalo!

  • Your_King

    Things need Aquino’s “certification of urgency” for it to speed up. I thought, the bill and other bills were urgent to begin with. How about a “certification of urgency” for the Maguindanao massacre trial or for unemployment problems or for all the many other problems plaguing the country.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U62PHGMKO4RK7BLMC4ACA4EG5A EREC

    Does Lagarde came to Philippines to offer huge credit line? I really reject this international financial institution to be used the Phiippines as market for their credit business…. for so long of years Philippines being victim of this European and Western credit financial institution…

    What the Philippines under Pnoy administration to do,  have a collective financial resources plan that will came from local inhabitants by issuing municipal/city bonds or securities that will mature before his end term… in this way the government will generate money from the locals that will benefited the locals.

    The issueance of municipal/city bonds or securities will be issued from treauserers office less levies, the high risk  of this if the politician will misused the fund…. all risk and lopeholes can be addressed by the  current administration if there is detemination to tackle this in deliberate manner.

    In this way the money will cycle rapidly with in the Philippines with constant earnings in an specified term.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U62PHGMKO4RK7BLMC4ACA4EG5A EREC

    Aquino administration must encourage Pilipinos even having least income to be part in a collective financial support to our government not just paying taxes but by buying securities/bonfd through local governments units not only in our local banks.

  • entong238

    Bolero yata si henares ng bir kasi di naman siya pinapakinggan ni aquino at ng mga mambabatas sa kanyang paliwanag na lugi ng 140 bilyon pesos ang gobyerno sa panggagamot at pag aaruga sa mga biktima ng sigarilyo at alak. 

    Kasi kung talagang lugi ng napakalaking pera ang pamahalaan at ayon din sa mga doktor 10 tao ang namamatay kada oras dahil sa sakit na dulot nila ay bakit di pa ipasara ang mga kumpanya ng alak at sigarilyo?

    Kataka taka. Magsalita naman kayo malacanang at ipaliwanag ang dahilan sa publiko.

  • Francis81

    Pweenoy sisnisipsip mo na parang bulalo ang taong bayan.  Ayusin mo muna ang smuggling sa customs bago kayo lumikha ng bagong buwis!

  • Malik62

    The sin tax was through the prompting of Sec. Purisima and Sec. Abad who were bribed by the British Tobaco Corp. for them to push for higher taxes for local cigarettes so that Lucky Strike will be more competitive. TUWAD NA DAAN!

  • opinyonlangpo

    As expected, bills bringing money in should come first and those bills losing money should come last. The bottom line is always money.

  • Cal_Reznick

    Really? You finally think that now this is urgent?? Tell us something we don’t already know Mr. President.

  • nakatutok

    yung FOI BILL kailan magiging URGENT???

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