SENATE President Vicente Sotto III will call for an all-senators’ caucus to discuss and come up with an acceptable formula on how much to increase the excise taxes imposed on alcohol, tobacco and vaping products.
In an interview over radio dwIZ on Saturday, Sotto said will call for the caucus once the Senate has finished its plenary deliberations on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.
President Duterte has certified as urgent the measure seeking to impose higher taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and vaping products to support the Universal Health Care Act.
The Senate is in its second week of floor deliberations on the proposed 2020 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as approved and transmitted by the House of Representatives.
It is expected to wrap-up its debates by next week, and bicameral conference committee discussions are eyed by the third week of November or first week of December.
Congress will have its Christmas break starting December 20.
“After the budget, isa sa pag-de-debatehan namin ‘yan, pero tatawag na ako ng caucus para mas madali kasi nagkakatalo diyan. ‘Yung intent okay kami lahat, pero magkakatalo ‘yan sa magkano (That will be one of the issues we will debate upon after the budget has been passed. I might call for a caucus because we might have differing opinions on the amount. The intent is okay for all of us, but we have different opinions when it comes to the amount to be imposed),” Sotto said.
Sotto said he personally feel that the new prices of sin products should not become unaffordable since this might kill the alcohol and cigarette industry.
He said senators must come up with an increase that will be acceptable to all.
“Baka naman you price it out to the market eh (tapos) ilang industriya ang pinatay mo.
Kapag pinatay ‘yan, maraming mawawalan ng trabaho, babalik sa iyo ‘yan parang boomerang. So kailangan balansehin mabuti ‘yung enough na makakakuha ang gobyerno para makatulong sa UHC (If we price the products excessively, we might kill the industry and killing the industry will affect the livelihood of the people, this will mean loss of jobs and it will boomerang on us. So we need to come up with a balanced amount that will be beneficial to all so we can help the UHC),” he said.
Duterte, on November 12, certified as urgent the measure proposing to increase excise taxes on alcohol, vape products and tobacco to effectively support the Universal Health Care Act.
In a letter to Sotto, Duterte called for the immediate enactment of Senate Bill 1074 which increases excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and vape products.
Under SBN 1074, beer and other alcoholic drinks will have a specific tax of P45 per liter on the first year of implementation and will increase by P10 for every year until the fourth year. The specific tax rate will increase by 10 percent every year thereafter.
Wine products will also have a specific tax of P600 per liter for the sparkling ones, and P43 per liter for still and carbonated wines. These rates will increase by 10 percent every year thereafter.
The bill also proposes to up the taxes on e-cigarettes from P10 per pack to P45 per pack on the first year.
The measure aims to raise P47.9 billion to support the UHC program. A similar measure was approved in the House of Representatives last August.
Aside from the additional excise sin taxes, Sotto said they are also aiming to introduce amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007, which defense and military officials said will pave the way for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao by the end of the year.
Martial law has been in effect in the entire Mindanao region since May 2017 after the ISIS-inspired Maute Group laid siege in Marawi City, and has been extended three times.
“Iyon ang isa naming ipa-prioritize para hindi na i-extend ang martial law sapagkat ang pangako sa amin ng armed forces at DND ire-rekomenda nila kay Presidente na i-lift ang martial law once pinasa namin ang HSA. (Amendments to the Human Security Act (HSA) are also our priority so that martial law in Mindanao will not be extended anymore. The armed forces and defense department promised they will recommend to the President the lifting of martial law once amendments to the HAS have been passed),” Sotto also said.