Last updateSat, 20 Sep 2014 8pm

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Senate acts to fast-track ‘sin’ tax bill

Senators, in a closed-door caucus, agreed to extend their plenary sessions to accommodate expected lengthy deliberations on the revised P45-billion “sin” tax substitute bill that its new author, Sen. Franklin Drilon, hopes to be approved by the third week of November.

Drilon, who took over as main sponsor of the sin-tax bill after Sen. Ralph Recto resigned as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means after a row with finance officials, told colleagues on Wednesday the Senate adjusted its plenary sessions to be able to pass the sin-tax bill ahead of the upcoming budget debates.

He said adjustment in their Monday-to-Wednesday sessions was adopted to enable senators to start marathon deliberations on the proposed P2-trillion national budget for 2013  by November 20.

Drilon confirmed that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile himself reminded fellow senators during the
caucus to be ready with their interpellations on the revised sin-tax bill, so they can stick to the agreed agenda.

This developed as tobacco farmers protested the alleged bias against local cigarettes in the substitute sin-tax bill submitted by Drilon to replace the original report filed by Recto setting a much lower P20-billion incremental revenue from all brands of cigarettes and alcoholic drinks.

In a statement, the Philippine Tobacco Growers Association (PTGA) said the steep tax rates on cigarettes proposed by Drilon would wipe out their means of livelihood as low-priced brands would have to shoulder most of the revenue burden in the proposed tax increases.

The PTGA said the low-priced brands, which use local tobacco, would bear the highest tax increase ranging from 341 percent in the first year to almost 1000 percent in the third year under Drilon’s substitute bill.

It also noted that even one of the proponents of the excise-tax increase on tobacco and alcohol products, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, raised concerns over the negative impact of the bill on raising additional revenues for the government because low-priced and hand-rolled cigarettes take up 65 percent of the local market share.





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