Recto favors open bicam meetings on sin tax
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ralph Recto said Wednesday that he fully supports opening the bicameral conference proceedings to the public when they finally tackle the sin tax reform bill.
The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) led the signing of a manifesto in the Philippine General Hospital Wednesday calling for Recto and Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to inhibit from the bicameral proceedings and to make it open to the public.
“I support opening the bicameral conference proceedings,” Recto told reporters in an ambush interview.
The medical organization alleged that Recto had been in a meeting with tobacco companies and that there were lawyers from Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp when Marcos conducted interpellations on the bill.
“Why are they so afraid?” Recto said. He said that he does not even know yet if he will become a member of the bicameral committee. “I’m not applying,” he added.
“I think the amendments of the Senate should stay … I’m wondering why they are afraid,” he said. “I think the most important there is the earmarking [of the budget] for health.”
Recto was the initial sponsor of the sin tax reform bill which aimed for a revenue collection target of P15 billion which disappointed some government health and revenue officials who wanted a revenue target of P60 billion.
Recto resigned as the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee after which Senator Franklin Drilon took over as acting chairman. Drilon’s version of the bill had a target of P40 billion and was passed in the Senate November 20.
In the plenary debates, Recto had proposed that more than half of the revenues from the additional taxes should go to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. He also proposed setting aside fixed amounts for the improvement and upgrading of district and regional hospital nationwide.
Drilon previously said that he expects some hard bargaining on the taxes for alcohol products because of a large gap between the Senate and House of Representatives versions. The Senate wants P16 billion from alcohol products while the House wants only P5 billion.
Drilon has yet to set a schedule for the bicameral conference on the sin tax bill.
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