Solon hopes for higher tobacco tax in TRAIN package 2

MANILA -- A lawmaker has expressed hope that his proposal to include an increase in tobacco tax would be included in the second tax reform package or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill.

I will be pursuing that it (increase in tobacco tax) be included in the package 2 because it has been proven that even if you increase the tax, people will still continue smoking, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said in an interview.

Ejercito, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, made this remark after the Senate version of the TRAIN bill package 1 was passed on third and final reading Tuesday (November 28) night.

He said that he really wanted tobacco tax to be seen as a health measure and not just a source of revenue.

In an earlier interview, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means in charge of leading deliberations on TRAIN said that two senators -- Ejercito and Manny Pacquiao -- have both moved for the inclusion of an increase in tobacco tax.

Unfortunately, Angara said that it was too late to include the proposals made by Ejercito and Pacquiao as among topics to be discussed during hearings last week.

Angara said that for him, it was best to wait until the total 2017 collections from tobacco would be released.

He said that in 2015, the government collected PHP100 billion, and PHP96 billion in 2016.

It decreased. So the argument of Senator Pacquiao and Senator JV is that if we increase the tax on cigarette, if we increase to PHP60, we might be able to raise an additional PHP60 billion. We have to study that, Angara said.

The senator, however, said that the Department of Finance (DOF) has vowed to include it in the next TRAIN package.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed on third and final reading its version of the TRAIN bill with 17 affirmative votes and only one negative vote.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, the only senator who voted against the passage of the TRAIN, said that she felt that it fell short of its promise to reform the tax system and be beneficial to the poor.

Senators who voted for TRAIN are Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Francis Escudero, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gringo Honasan, Manny Pacquiao, Joel Villanueva, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Source: Philippine News Agency