Congress readies tobacco tax bill for Duterte's signature

MANILA. The House of Representatives, together with the Senate, ratified the tobacco tax bill on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, shortly before the 17th Congress adjourned sine die. The tobacco tax bill is awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte's signature. (Photo by Ryniel Berlanga/SunStar Philippines)

THE House of Representatives ratified Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the bill seeking to raise the excise tax on tobacco products in a last-minute act to achieve the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte.

House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in her farewell speech at the House of Representatives Tuesday, said the measure was "being readied for the President's signature".

The House approved its version of the excise tax bill, House Bill No. 8677, on December 3, 2018. The Senate approved a similar measure, Senate Bill No. 2233, only on Monday, June 3, 2019.

Arroyo said both the House and the Senate ratified the measure Tuesday to do away with the bicameral conference committee negotiations and endorse the measure to President Duterte.

The ratification of the measure was made just a few hours before the 17th Congress will adjourn sine die. Any bills that were not passed would have to be filed again when the 18th Congress opens on July 22.

House Concurrent Resolution No. 26 provides for the adjournment sine die of Congress by 12 midnight Tuesday. A concurrent resolution is used for matters affecting the operations of both Houses of Congress, such as fixing the time of adjournment.

Under this measure, the excise tax on tobacco products will increase to P45 per pack in 2020, P50 per pack in 2021, P55 per pack in 2022, and P60 per pack in 2023. Starting 2024, the rate will increase by 5.0 percent annually.

The higher excise tax rates will be used to fund the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act, which was signed into law last February 2019.

The Department of Finance (DOF) earlier said the UHC Law would require a budget of P257 billion in its first year of implementation in 2020.

The budget is projected to grow at an average of P11 billion to P12 billion per year, amounting to a five-year total of around P1.44 trillion by 2024. (MVI with a report from Ryniel Berlanga/SunStar Philippines)


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