Many senators still not sold on tax reform package: Angara

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2017 04:03 PM

MANILA - The Senate is set to summon the Duterte administration's economic managers to a hearing on the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill as many senators remain opposed to several of its provisions, Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Sen. Sonny Angara said on Thursday. 

Angara said the proposed excise taxes on petroleum products, sugared drinks, and the removal of the value-added tax (VAT) exemption on several goods and services remain contentious issues. 

With President Duterte calling on the Senate to pass the tax reform bill "in full," Angara said members of the super-majority bloc have agreed to convene the Senate into a "committee of the whole" so they can thoroughly examine the TRAIN bill.

"Ang naging parang resolusyon ay humingi ng committee of the whole," Angara told reporters.

To be summoned by the 'committee of the whole' are Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto said he hopes to hold the hearing next week. 

Several senators said they remain opposed to some of the provisions of TRAIN, which is the first package of the Duterte administration's Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP). 

Senator JV Ejercito, a member of the super-majority coalition, has called the tax reform measure "pro-government but anti-consumer."

Ejercito said he hopes someone will enlighten the president about the implications of the CTRP.

"I am quite sure that he was briefed by the DOF [Department of Finance] only. He needs to hear the point of view of others as well," Ejercito said.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian echoed his colleagues' statements, saying the imposition of excise taxes on fuel will have inflationary effects.

"Even DOF admitted in their presentation na merong inflationary effect. How far and how wide and how big, yan ang pinagde-debatehan, kung gaano ang magiging impact sa ating consumers," Gatchalian said in an interview.

This is aside from the "sectoral impact" if Congress approves a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as well as the scrapping of VAT exemption on socialized housing, Gatchalian said.

Instead of passing the tax reform bill "in full" like what the President requested, the Senate may pass a new comprehensive tax package, Gatchalian continued.