Senate to reconsider approval of tobacco tax hike bill
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is set to reconsider its third and final reading approval of the tobacco tax hike bill on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday that this was due to the opposition of some members of the House of Representatives on the sharing of revenues.
“Nagkaroon ng kaunting gusot kagabi doon sa sin tax measure dahil umalma ang ating mga kapatid na kongresista sa norte, kung saan may tobacco producing provinces on the distribution of their share dito sa RA 7171,” Zubiri told reporters in an interview.
Under the said act, local government units (LGUs) that produce cigarettes would receive a 15 percent-share of the total tax collection and allocate it for their projects.
Currently, 90 percent of the 15 percent share is distributed to the towns and municipalities while 10 percent goes to the provinces.
On Monday, the Senate accepted the Department of Finance’s (DOF) proposal to amend the distribution to 50 percent to the municipalities and towns, and 50 percent to the provinces.
The Senate then approved on third and final reading the tobacco tax hike bill, Senate Bill No. 2233, on Monday night.
However, the said amendment was opposed by some lawmakers from Northern Luzon, which has tobacco-producing provinces.
“What happened last night, sabi ni Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, pinuntahan daw siya ng mga northern bloc congressmen and threatened not to approve the sin tax measure if this was not addressed,” Zubiri said.
He said the Senate has already asked officials from the DOF, particularly Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Undersecretary Karl Chua, to “fix” the measure or the bill could be held “hostage.”
“‘Yung amendment na kasi na ‘yan, that was given by the DOF, it’s a DOF-initiated amendment so we asked the DOF last night, through Undersecretary Karl Chua and Secretary Dominguez, ‘ayusin nyo kasi kung hindi baka ihostge yung batas’,” Zubiri said.
He believes a compromise has been reached and the Senate will introduce it to the floor on Tuesday afternoon.
He added that he already informed Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and all members of the majority and minority bloc that they need to reconsider their approval of the tobacco tax hike bill.
“We will have a reconsideration of approval of the sin tax measure, open the period of amendments, i-amend namin dito uli yung pinag-usapan ng DOF at saka House, ‘yung agreeable provisions, ipasa namin ng second and third reading this afternoon, tapos i-adopt na ng House,” the Senate majority leader said.
He insisted that the Senate could no longer afford a bicameral conference committee (bicam) meeting, even if it’s a paper bicam, due to the time constraint.
“Hindi na kami papayag pa ng bicam, wala ng panahon para pa sa bicam even if it’s a paper bicam, kailangan pa nilang pirmahan ‘yung bicam report,” Zubiri said.
The Congress is set to adjourn on Tuesday evening. (Editor: Julie Espinosa)
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