The Senate passed on November 20 the reform bill that raises excise tax on tobacco and alcohol products. This marked the first time in 15 years that the measure made it out of the committee level following decades of strong industry lobby that has made the Philippines one of the cheapest place to buy cigarettes. Voting 15-2, the Senate approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 3299 or the bill raising additional P39.5 billion revenues for government in the first year, slightly lower than the P40-billion "floor" targeted by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III who has used his popularity and flexed his political muscle to get this priority measure passed. The next hurdle is the bicameral conference committee where the Senate and the House of Representatives will reconcile their versions.
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