It’s up to House to pass ‘sin tax’ bill
MANILA, Philippines — The passage of the “sin tax” reform bill now rests in the hands of the House of Representatives as senators scramble to approve the final version of the measure before the 17th Congress adjourns on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Sunday.
According to Drilon, senators have already agreed to pass on second and third readings the draft measure sponsored by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara when they resume session today since President Duterte had already certified it as an urgent bill.
The measure, based on the separate bills filed by Senators JV Ejercito, Manny Pacquiao and Sherwin Gatchalian, proposed to levy additional excise of up to P60 per cigarette pack in the next four years.
This was higher than the House-approved version, which only imposed as much as P45 in excise for every cigarette pack until 2022.
“I’m in favor of increasing the tax on cigarettes because this is a health measure and it will help bring down the number of cigarette smokers,” Drilon said in a radio interview.
No more time for bicam
“It will be sent to the House on June 4 for their perusal. If they agree with our version, they can adopt it already since we do not have time for a congressional bicameral committee,” he added.
Drilon said it would be best for the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) to step in and carry out its mandate to connect the executive and legislative branches in crafting much-needed laws.
“I hope they could help us. The Senate has yet to see the assistance of the PLLO on this matter. They should move now,” he said.
The opposition senator also reiterated his proposal to review the shares of tobacco-producing towns from the total amount of excise collected from cigarette manufacturers.
Citing government data, Drilon said northern Luzon towns that produced a total of P3.8 billion in tobacco products in 2017 received P17.5 billion in financial assistance from the national government for poor farmers.
He said the fact that these areas remained among the poorest towns in the country only meant that the funds intended to benefit poor farmers were not utilized properly.
Universal health care
Allocating most of the collected excise to bankroll the universal health care law would help more people than just distributing the funds to select tobacco-growing areas, he added.
“I’m not saying that we will no longer help [the tobacco farmers]. I believe we have given them so much already. To be fair with others, we can use the money to help people suffering from diseases due to cigarette smoking,” Drilon said.
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