Alcohol tax nears okay

Martin Romualdez
ALCOHOL TAX. Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez (center) delivers his sponsorship speech on House Bill 2467, co-authored by his wife Tingog Party-List Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez, which increases the excise tax on alcohol products, heated tobacco products and vapor products, during a briefing with the Department of Finance on priority tax measures. Also in photo are Committee Chairman Rep. Joey Salceda (right) and Rep. Horacio Suansing Jr.(left). Photo by Ver Noveno

A HOUSE panel quickly approved and sent to plenary a bill increasing the excise tax rates on alcohol products.

House Bill 1026 was filed by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means.

Since the same bill was already approved on third and final reading during the previous Congress, the panel did not deliberate further but moved the measure to the plenary for the entire House to discuss.

House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez explained that the panel led by Salceda invoked Rule 10, Section 48 of the House rules, which empowers the committee to immediately pass bills and resolutions that were already approved on third and final reading by the preceding Congress.

“Once constituted, the committees responsible for these measures may meet for just one meeting and immediately refer the committee reports for plenary deliberation. This is possible if they invoke Section 48 of the House rules,” Romualdez explained after Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez opposed the motion of Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing to adopt Salceda’s House Bill (HB) No. 1026 or the similar version that was approved by the recently concluded 17th Congress.

Section 48 of the House rules provide that: “In case of bills or resolutions that are identified as priority measures of the House, which were previously filed in the immediately preceding Congress and have already been approved on 3rd reading, the same may be disposed of as matters already reported upon the approval of majority of the members of the committee present, there being a quorum.”

Romualdez and Rodriguez filed separate bills on alcohol products to also fill the funding gap of the government’s Universal Health Care (UHC) program.

“This additional funding will help sustain PhilHealth coverage for all Filipino families; improve accessibility, affordability, and quality of health care; and provide better outpatient benefit package, including check- up or consultation and medicines. An equally important objective of the bill is to discourage excessive consumption of alcohol products especially among the youth. Excessive alcohol drinking leads to diseases like cirrhosis or liver damage and pancreatitis, among others. Moreover, alcohol drinking leads to behaviors like drunk driving and domestic violence,” said Romualdez in defending HB No. 2467 that he and his wife, Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, jointly filed.

Salceda’s version of the alcohol tax bill seeks to increase the excise tax on alcohol products and the indexation rate to 10 percent to account for inflation and income.

At least 43 members of the committee voted in favor of the bill’s approval.

Once enacted into law, the incremental revenues that will be generated will fund social services and infrastructure programs of the government.

In moving for the adoption of HB 1026, Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing cited Rule 10 Section 48 of the chamber.

Under this rule, priority measures that have been approved by the House on third reading in the previous Congress may be disposed of “as matters already reported” upon the approval of majority of the committee members present.

“The committee secretary shall immediately prepare the necessary committee reports on said measures for inclusion in the Calendar of Business,” the House rule read.

Under the bill that was approved in the 17th Congress only in the House of Representatives distilled spirits such as brandy, whisky and alcopops will be imposed a 22 percent ad valorem tax rate on the net retail price per proof plus a specific tax of P30 per liter beginning January 1, 2020.

Then a P5-increase in the specific tax will be imposed every year until it reaches P45 per liter in 2022. In 2023 and onwards, the specific tax for distilled spirits will climb by 7 percent each year.

For sparkling wine, the bill integrates two specific tax rates into a unitary rate pegged at P650.

This means that starting 2020, a 15-percent ad valorem tax per liter will be imposed on sparkling wines plus P650 specific tax per liter. The specific tax will be raised by 7 percent beginning 2020 and every year thereafter.

This category will be taxed at P80 per liter in 2019 which will increase 7 percent every year beginning 2020.

Meanwhile, cooking wines with salt content of not less than 1.5 grams for every 100 milliliter will be exempted from excise tax, the bill stated.

Lawmakers are pushing for the passage of the tax measure primarily to reduce consumption of alcohol products while generating revenue for the government to fund the universal health care program of the government.

At yesterday’s hearing, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez objected to the swift approval of the measure, insisting that neophytes and comebacking solons like him should be given the chance to study the measure further.

Likewise, he wanted to give a chance to the stakeholders to be heard on the tax measure.

Once approved, this will be the first tax measure passed under the 18th Congress.

The passage of the tax measure is also a request of President Rodrigo Duterte to Congress, which he announced during his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

With Jester P. Manalastas