House suspends hearing on additional tobacco excise taxes
The House Committee on Ways and Means on Monday suspended the hearing on additional tobacco excise taxes, over issues regarding job security for tobacco workers and excessively high taxes for tobacco companies.
Committee chairperson and Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Estrellita Suansing decided to grant the motion of Bataan 2nd District Jose Enrique Garcia to suspend the hearings for House Bills No. 6648 and 4575 so members of the committee can attend the regular session.
The hearing would resume at the Andaya Hall at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday.
The suspension would give the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Health (DOH) time to collate data on possible sources of funds for the Universal Healthcare Act.
“Will you be ready by 10 a.m. tomorrow?” Suansing asked DOF Undersecretary Karl Chua. “We cannot proceed with the meeting tomorrow if you cannot provide us with those information.”
“The revenue breakdown of all the measures passed by this committee, that is available. So the only thing missing is the impact on the anti-tobacco ads,” Chua answered.
Lawmakers are looking for alternative sources of funds for the Universal Healthcare Act after stakeholders and some lawmakers alike expressed fears about the negative effects of the two proposals.
If House Bill 6648 authored by Quezon 4th District Representative Angelina Tan is enacted, excise taxes for each pack of cigarette would be raised to P60 by 2019, instead of the original P35 according to theTax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.
This also raises excise taxes by nine percent for each succeeding year, instead of the four percent starting 2024.
On the other hand, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda’s House Bill 4575, places the additional excise tax at P5 per pack, and an increase of five percent every year after 2022.
Marikina 2nd District Rep. Romero Quimbo has questioned DOF officials why an additional excise tax is necessary, despite barely a year after the TRAIN law took effect.
“No’ng pinag-usapan po ‘yong TRAIN 1, naisingit po ang sigarilyo. Kinailangan ho natin na meron pang habulin na revenue, ang sabi sa atin. So pumayag po, pinag-usapan po ‘yon,” Quimbo said.
(During the discussions for TRAIN 1, the issue on cigarettes was inserted. We need additional revenue so it was discussed as well.)
“Pero (But) we have not even seen the full effects of that adjustment. What is one year? Why can’t we wait for one full year to be able to come up with a better appreciation of the numbers on the full effects of TRAIN 1, as well as the 16 percent increase that we did for this year?” he asked.
Earlier, tobacco companies blamed the excise taxes on tobacco products for the proliferation of illicit whites, or illegally-produced cigarettes, in the black market. They also claimed that an increase in taxes would mean more unemployed tobacco workers. /ee
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