House, Senate veer away from ‘contentious’ issues in joint meeting on sin tax bill

Lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives on Wednesday veered away from the “contentious” issues in the proposed legislation that seek to impose higher taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages during a joint congressional meeting on the measure.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairperson of the House ways and means committee, said the two chambers decided to prioritize similar provisions in the House and Senate versions of the sin tax bill.

“Basically, the sections where we have the same provisions and that are acceptable to both houses like indexation, deleting of the annexes, which pegged the prices of liquor and cigarettes at 1996 levels and some redundant provisions of the six tax measure were adopted,” Ungab said in a text message.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, who is also part of the House delegation to the bicameral conference committee, meanwhile said the joint panel scheduled another meeting on Thursday to reconcile conflicting provisions in the two versions of the sin tax bill.

“We agreed to meet again. Iyong mga rates, iyong mga effectivity, iyong mga tax target, bukas pa iyon itutuloy,” Suarez said at a press briefing.

He said he expects more “heated” discussions on the bill, especially regarding the expected revenue from taxes on cigarettes, liquors and distilled spirits, at Thursday's meeting.

“Bukas siguro iyong mas mainitan na. I would just like to remind our counterparts in the Senate that when it comes to taxation, it is the House that has power over that,” he said.

The Senate passed last month its version of the sin tax bill proposing P40 billion to P45 billion in additional excise tax revenue collection from cigarette and alcohol products. The House, on the other hand, approved its version of the bill last June, providing for an incremental revenue of P31.35 billion from revenues from these products. — Andreo C. Calonzo/KBK, GMA News