Senators slam sudden insertion on coal taxes after bicam deal

Camille Elemia
Senators slam sudden insertion on coal taxes after bicam deal
There are two different versions of the bicameral conference committee report being circulated to lawmakers, says Senator Villanueva

MANILA, Philippines – The fate of the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill remains in limbo, after it was supposedly discovered that the House inserted a provision retaining the Value-Added Tax (VAT) exemptions of locally produced coal.

On the last session day of Congress for 2018, senators slammed the sudden inclusion of a provision on coal taxes, even after both chambers already agreed on a different final version.

Senators Joel Villanueva and Loren Legarda said the inserted provision was contrary to what was approved in the bicam. Legarda is a member of the bicam panel.

In short, there were two versions of the bicam report being circulated to lawmakers.

The first one contained the approved version repealing Presidential Decree 972 or the Coal Development Act of 1976, a special law issued by then president Ferdinand E. Marcos which exempts local coal from all taxes except income tax. 

The second version supposedly contained the House insertion retaining such incentives.

Legarda said the bicam has decided to remove the tax exemptions on locally produced coal to be fair to all kinds of coal. She said the removal of the tax incentives would give the government P5 billion in revenue, citing Department of Finance’s figures.

Kung anong pinagkasunduan, ano nakasaad, nakasulat yun dapat manaig diba?” Legarda told repoters. (Whatever was agreed upon, whatever was written that is what should prevail.)

“Wala akong nakikitang ibang bicam report. May mga agam-agam, sabi-sabi na meron ibang bicam report, na merong nag-magic na nawala ibang probisyon pero ayoko magsalita nang di ko nakikita,” she said.

(I haven’t seen any other bicam report. There are talks that there is another bicam report. That some magic is going on and some provisions were dropped. But I will not speak unless I’ve seen it.) 

Villanueva, although not part of the bicam panel, was the one who pushed for the provision during the period of amendments. It was was later on adopted by the Senate in its final version.

Sa ngayon may 2 bicam report – yung isa repealed. Yung [isa] will be exempted pa rin. Nagulat kami dun,” Villanueva said.

(As of now there are two bicam reports. Once has the repealed the exemptions provision. The other bicam report retained the exemption. We were surprised.)  

As of posting, senators are still in a meeting. Congress is set to go on Christmas break on December 15. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email