MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III does not think the 2013 midterm polls will get in the way of the passage of the so-called sin tax bill.
At a forum with the foreign press on Wednesday, October 17, Aquino said he believes the measure will be passed even before senators seek reelection next year.
“There are several senators who are opting to run for next year’s elections …. And how can anybody say they are opposed to an effective sin tax measure? So do we need a plan B if in [case] it doesn’t pass? I think I am confident that it will pass,” Aquino said.
He added, “We have stated the same to our allies in the Senate on how important this measure is as well as the AMLA measure amongst others. I think there is sufficient time to really thresh out all the details and come up with something they can fully support.”
The fate of the sin tax bill is under question after Sen Ralph Recto resigned as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee last Monday, October 15. Recto also withdrew the committee report he sponsored on the sin tax bill. Sen Franklin Drilon has been named acting chairman of the committee.
Recto resigned after coming under fire for supposedly watering down the measure.
His committee report will result in an additional P15 billion to P20 billion in revenues from alcohol and tobacco products. This is much lower than the Finance Department’s P60 billion target and the P31 billion in the version already passed by the House of Representatives.
Meeting with senators today
Asked how he can ensure that the government meets its target revenues from sin taxes, Aquino said his officials will meet with the senators Wednesday.
“They asked for specific members of the executive. The Secretary of Finance, the Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner and the Department of Health [Secretary] would be meeting with the senators in a caucus at 3 pm precisely to again state our positions with regards to the rates and various other details of the sin tax measure.”
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, BIR chief Kim Henares and Health Secretary Enrique Ona have rejected Recto’s version of the bill, saying it “fell short of what we need.”
Aquino said the sin tax bill is one of his two priority measures, the other being the third bill amending the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
How about RH, FOI?
Aquino was also asked about two other measures he had committed to pushing for: the Reproductive Health (RH) bill and the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.
The President said for now, he is focused on asking the leadership of Congress to pass the sin tax and AMLA bills but also heard “good news” about the two other measures.
“I was told there are significant developments with regards to the responsible parenthood bill but the amount of material I had to go through yesterday, that was not one of the reports I was able to go through. I was not able to find out what the good news is.”
On FOI, Aquino said the House Committee on Public Information is expected to work on it.
“I’m told that on November 13, there will be a decision within the committee on FOI. When they resume sessions, it is expected they will be able to finish and work it out of the committee.”
The RH bill faces rough sailing in both houses of Congress, where privilege speeches and the opposition of lawmakers caused delays in the introduction of amendments to the bill.
The Catholic Church is staunchly against the measure, which aims to provide access to natural and modern family planning methods, as well as promote sex education.
The FOI bill has also been delayed in the House reportedly because of reluctance by Committee Chairman Eastern Samar Rep Ben Evardone. Earlier this month, a committee hearing was postponed because he said there was literally no room for the meeting. – Rappler.com
For related stories, read: