Proposed taxes on sweetened drinks, fuel worry Angara
Sen. Sonny Angara on Tuesday expressed concern over the proposed tax reform law being pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Looking back at it, it’s real politics you know. It’s the executive branch wanting to push its version of a tax measure and kami, as senators, it’s our job to scrutinize that measure,” Angara said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel’s morning show Headstart.
Duterte, in his second State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, urged Congress to pass the tax reform package in its entirety, making a side comment to Angara.
“I call on the Senate so support my tax reform in full and to pass it without haste,” Duterte said during his Sona. “Ayaw man mag (palakpak), pati is ano, wala. They are not clapping. Si (Sen. Sonny) Angara, ayaw ring mag-clap. Bantay ka lang sa eleksyon, tingnan mo.”
Duterte also said in his speech that the passage of the tax reform law is needed to fund the proposed 2018 budget.
“The poor and vulnerable are at the heart of my tax reform. Your support would ensure that the benefits of the tax reform can be felt immediately by them,” the chief executive said addressing the lawmakers.
Tax on sweetened drinks
Despite the President’s assurance that the tax reforms are “designed to be pro-poor,” Angara said the Senate has issues over the bill, one of which is that the law taxes milk with added sugar on the same level as soft drinks.
“Well, so far, there’s some concerns with sugar-sweetened beverages because it’s per volume tax. Meaning, per liter they put a P10 tax. And the way it’s crafted right now is that milk, gatas, pareho ang trato sa Coca-Cola. So milk with added sugars, you know what our kids drink, chocolate milk, like that,” the senator said. “So for me that’s not a good policy because you’re gonna discourage kids from drinking milk.”
Angara also questioned the bill saying milk should not be treated the same as other sweetened drinks.
“But why do you treat milk the same as other sweetened drinks when milk has one teaspoon per 200 milligrams of added sugar… But soda has ten teaspoons per 200 milligrams,” said Angara.
“I don’t think they should be treated the same because if you do that you won’t change the habits of people. They’ll be drinking the same unhealthy drinks that they’ve been drinking because the price is the same, and maybe that has a better distribution network all over the country so it’s cheaper, more available,” he added.
The senator also pointed out recent health data showing Filipinos are among the shortest people in Southeast Asia.
“Maybe it should be a more nuanced scale. It’s okay to tax it but maybe not treat them the same,” Angara said.
Angara also said the proposed excise tax on diesel had a lower assumption of inflation rate, adding that it will surely affect the poor.
“Fuel, gasoline and diesel, they’re proposing a P6-excise tax and it’s phased over three years… But the thing is when they made those calculations inflation was at 1 to 2 percent. Now inflation is 3 to 3.4 percent this year. So that’s dangerously high,” he said. “Well ang taas na ng presyo ng bilihin tataas pa lalo (Commodities are already expensive and will only get more expensive).”
The Senate ways and means committee head, nonetheless, assured their continuous hearings on the tax reform package every week. Angara said they aim to release a committee report by September.
“But we’ll try our best. I think there’s an ongoing dialogue. I think that’s what’s important, that dialogue continues with the executive and we tell them we’re candid with each other about our goals and about what we feel, what we see in the tax measure,” said Angara. IDL/rga
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