Senate OKs bill on alcohol, e-cigarette excise tax hike
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill increasing the excise tax on alcohol, heated tobacco and vapor products.
With 20 affirmative votes and zero negative votes, the Senate approved Senate Bill No. 1074, which was earlier certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Senate also adopted an amendment, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, exempting the sale or importation of prescription medicine from value-added tax (VAT).
Sen. Pia Cayetano, sponsor of the bill and chair of the Senate ways and means committee, initially opposed the proposal.
“It is something I support in principle. However, as your chairman on the committee on ways and means, I believe that we should have a hearing and listen to the DOF [Department of Finance] and listen to all the other concerned sectors so that we can make a decision (on) which would be the best way to lower the prices of medicines,” she explained.
But Cayetano eventually withdrew her rejection of the proposal.
“In as much as I do not change my position that I feel as your chairperson, it would have been nice of you to give me the opportunity to study a little bit more, to present the issues to you in more detail, to be able to assist both the DOH [Department of Health] and the DOF,” she said.
“I have always said, and I’ve never changed my position on this, that I am merely your chairperson and if the majority wants to do what they want to do, I will follow…I withdraw my rejection of the proposal,” she added.
After the period of amendments, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri then moved to approve the bill on second reading.
He then moved to immediately vote on third and final reading since the bill has been certified as urgent by the President.
“This being a certified measure I move that we proceed to vote on third and final reading,” Zubiri said.
When a bill is certified as urgent, there is no need to wait for the three-day period between the second and third readings before it gets passed.
The Senate passed the bill with 20 affirmative votes and no negative votes or abstention.
Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua earlier said the sin tax measure was “part of a broader agenda of investing in the Filipino people.”
He said the bill would generate an additional P47.9 billion in the first year of implementation and around P356.9 billion over the next five years, which would help fund the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act.
The House passed its version of the bill last August.
Following the Senate’s approval of the bill, it will be elevated to the bicameral conference committee for further deliberations and returned to the lower and upper chamber for ratification of the final version.
Once ratified, the final version of the proposal will be sent to the President for signature.