If the bill to increase the sin tax on cigarettes is not passed on third and final reading this week, it will not be passed into law, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Sunday.
He said this week was “critical” for the bill as Congress would adjourn on June 7.
“This week is very critical, in fact this is very critical for most of the bills. If any of the bills will not be passed into third reading, it would be difficult for them to become laws,” Gatchalian told dzBB radio.
Gatchalian’s bill seeks to increase the tax on cigarettes to P70 per pack by 2020, which will then be followed by a 9-percent annual increase in the succeeding years.
Outgoing Senator JV Ejercito has been vouching for a 90-peso tax increase per pack of cigarette while Manny Pacquiao is asking for a 70-peso-per-pack increase.
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Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has said he will support modest increases over time but not P60 immediately.
The other ways and means committee members who are yet to sign the committee report are Senator Ralph Recto and reelected Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Nancy Binay and Cynthia Villar.
Recto is among the members of the Senate ways and means committee who is yet to sign the committee report. He vowed to sign it on May 28.
But Gatchalian remains hopeful the senators will pass Senate Bill 2177, or the proposed measure to raise the sin taxes to fund the Universal Health Care bill that was recently signed by President Rodrigo Duterte into law.
He said this would be based on his assumption that no interpellations would be made or only a few would interpellate, but if there would be long interpellations and many amendments, the proposed measure would be dragged until next week.
Gatchalian said it was most important to approve on the bill on third reading not later than Wednesday so it would be followed by a bicam at the weekend and then the ratification.
He said a sponsorship of the bill was needed by Monday in order to have an interpellation by at least Tuesday.
He said the period for amendment on the excise bill may open on Wednesday, which would lead to a bicameral conference and ratification over the following weekend.
Gatchalian’s bill seeks to increase the tax on cigarettes to P70 per pack by 2020, which would then be followed by a 9-percent annual increase in succeeding years.
Anthony Leachon, chairman of the Council of Past Presidents of the Philippine College of Physicians, said the passing of a pro-health tax increase was key to lowering the smoking prevalence in the country.
He said raising the tax on cigarettes to at least P60 per pack was tantamount to saving at least one million Filipinos from the harm of smoking.
“I hope we do not waste the opportunity of passing this key reform this Congress, given that we already have good options on the table in the Senate,” he said.
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