Duterte open to tweaking tax bill
Senators said on Wednesday President Rodrigo Duterte had given the Senate elbow room to tweak the comprehensive tax reform package, a welcome development that would allow them to come up with a version that would be more acceptable to the people.
The proposed measure was among the issues discussed during a three-hour meeting that Mr. Duterte had called on Tuesday with congressional leaders and Cabinet members.
“He didn’t have an outright statement [that he was giving us a free hand] because a lot of issues were discussed. But at the end of the meeting he said, ‘I leave it up to you. Bahala na kayo diyan,’” recounted Sen. Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate committee on ways and means.
But Majority Floor Leader Sen. Vicente Sotto III said that from what he perceived from the meeting, Mr. Duterte was now open to the Senate tweaking and introducing amendments to the proposed measure.
During his State of the Nation Address on July 24, Mr. Duterte said he wanted the Senate to pass the comprehensive tax law in full, the way the House of Representatives did in May.
“My personal reading of the President is that he will allow us to tweak the measure to make it more acceptable to our people. He’s no longer saying that we pass it in full,” said Sotto yesterday.
It was the economic managers who were resisting, he added.
Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also had a similar impression of Tuesday’s discussions on the measure, saying that Mr. Duterte has accepted that the Senate will retain its flexibility insofar as deciding on the amounts of taxes.
“My impression is that the President left it on the good judgment of the legislature and in consultation of course with the Department of Finance as to what is the appropriate tax structure that will finally be passed,” Drilon told reporters.
He also said the Senate was in agreement that there was a need to reform the country’s tax structure but it still had to deliberate on which products and services should be taxed higher, taking into account fears of inflation.
Drilon pointed out that the Senate still had to study the effects of higher taxes, particularly on fuel.
Several senators have also expressed apprehension over imposing higher taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and housing, which will also affect many industries.
Angara yesterday said his committee would conduct a few more hearings “to wrap up loose ends” on these particular items.
The committee on Wednesday held its final hearing on the proposed higher taxes on automobiles.
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