Some senators skeptical on passing tax reform package ‘in full’

MANILA-- Though the Senate has been prodded by President Rodrigo Duterte to pass the proposed comprehensive tax reform package in full during his second State of the Nation Address on Monday, some senators said that they could not promise that they could grant the President's request.

Senators earlier said that they were in no hurry to pass the package citing several concerns such as the effect of petroleum taxes and excise taxes on poor sectors.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has already approved the first package with 246 votes that are in favor, nine that are against it, and one abstention last May 31.

The tax-reform package seeks to lower personal income tax rates, expand the value-added tax (VAT) base, raise excise taxes on petroleum and automobiles, impose an excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages and ease the rates of estate and donor's taxes.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said that he knew that the pressure to pass the measure would come eventually but owed it to the people to assure that it was pro-poor.

The executive branch wanted to push its version of tax measures and as senators it's our job to scrutinize that measure but we'll try our best, Angara said in a TV interview.

I think what's important that dialogue is continuous with the executive and we tell them we're candid with each other about our goals and about what we feel and what we see in the tax measure, he added.

Angara said that he was apprehensive about how it would affect how people purchase fuel, oil, gas and diesel and sugar sweetened beverages including milk.

We will feel it, people like us we will not feel it but the poor on minimum wage, they will feel it. It's not a good policy because we don't discourage kids from drinking milk, Angara said.

He clarified that he was not closing his doors to approving the package but merely correcting it.

We've talked about what we perceive as maybe some things that need correcting but there's also a lot of good things with the tax package. Like, smaller entrepreneurs, smaller businesses will have a higher threshold for VAT (value added tax), he said.

Like Angara, Senator Panfilo Lacson said that he does not see the package being passed in full noting that the government has been underspending.

The purpose of imposing tax is to spur development, not make the people suffer, Lacson told reporters, urging the government to spend more efficiently.

Senator Joel Villanueva also said that there were some modifications that needed to be made to ensure that it was not anti-poor and Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito also expressed apprehension because it would affect the masses.

Angara meanwhile expressed hope that his panel would be able to release the committee report on the comprehensive tax reform package for debate in the plenary by September.

Source: Philippine News Agency