Drilon’s ‘weight loss’ plan? Sin tax, budget by year-end
MANILA, Philippines – Want to lose some extra pounds? Try pushing to pass both the sin tax bill and the national budget.
Sen Franklin Drilon said he will work for the passage of both bills by the end of the year.
“We will pass both. I have the capacity for hard work. Maybe this is my way of losing weight,” Drilon told reporters in jest as session resumed on Monday, November 5.
Drilon is the chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee, which is in charge of the budget, and the acting head of the Senate Ways and Means Committee overseeing the sin tax bill.
The senator said that he will use the version of the sin tax bill sponsored but later withdrawn by Sen Ralph Recto, who resigned as head of the Ways and Means Committee. Backlash over the supposed watered-down version prompted Recto’s resignation in October.
Instead of starting from scratch, Drilon said the Recto version will be used and debates will begin on Tuesday, November 6.
“There is one committee report. It has been sponsored on the floor. We will continue with the sponsorship and now respond to questions in the period of interpellation. Thereafter, we will introduce amendments as the committee amendments,” said Drilon.
Drilon said he "touched base" with Recto and they both agree to follow this process.
Officials in the executive branch and civil society groups criticized Recto’s version because it will only result to additional revenues from alcohol and tobacco products amounting to P15 billion to P20 billion. This is way lower than the government’s target of P60 billion and the P30 billion in the House of Representatives version.
Drilon, an administration ally, stressed that he will defend the need to increase the taxes. The sin tax bill is a priority measure of the Aquino administration. President Benigno Aquino III said he is confident of the bill's passage before the May 2013 polls.
“We will defend the fact that primarily this is a health measure more than a finance and tax measure because it is accepted that smoking is a major cause of mortality in the Philippines. It is accepted that as a policy, excise tax is an effective tool of reducing smoking in the country,” said Drilon.
Drilon, however, said he cannot give figures yet on the revenues to be targetted under the amended bill.
Sen Edgardo Angara, member of the Ways and Means Committee, said he and his colleagues must find a “sweet spot” or a figure between the P15 billion in the Recto version and the P60 billion government target.
Angara said that P30 billion to P40 billion will be acceptable.
“That’s my calculation of what could be acceptable and reasonable, satisfying both health and revenue interests and at the same time preserving the livelihood of tobacco farmers.”
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has said that he is amenable to P40 billion.
‘Sin tax needed to fill funding gap’
Drilon also said it is necessary to pass the sin tax bill by year-end to fill the so-called funding gap of the Health Department.
The senator explained that the current budget of the department can only fund the enrollment of 5.2 million families in the Philhealth program. He said money is needed to enroll an additional 5.2 million families.
He pointed out that revenues from sin tax are also intended to be used for additional hospital repairs and health programs like immunization.
Drilon said, “The budget of the Department of Health is P54 billion under the 2013 budget but they really need about P77.4 billion so there is a funding gap of P24 billion. Therefore, we have to pass the sin tax bill in order that we can fill the financial gap on the health sector. The government cannot appropriate P77.4 billion because of the deficit level.”
Sin tax first, then budget
The senator said that the sin tax bill must be passed before the 2013 budget “so that we will have a better feel of the budget.”
Drilon expects the P2.006 trillion national budget for 2013 to reach the Senate floor by next week.
Like in the past two years under the Aquino administration, Drilon expects the budget to be passed in time so the government will not operate on a reenacted budget. – Rappler.com
More on the Sin tax bill:
- ‘Aquino phone calls needed for better sin tax bill’
- Palace banks on sin tax bill for hospital upgrades
- Lower sin tax, less health care for poor
- BISYO: A special report on Sin Tax
- Vitug Vlogs: Aquino's ratings and the sin tax bill
- 'Revenues from sin tax bill to contain 2013 PH deficit'
- Half of Pinoy smokers likely to quit if sin taxes increase - survey