Duterte now ‘open’ to amendments to tax reform package


MANILA — Two senators on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted that “flexibility” is needed on the part of the executive to ensure the passage of the proposed comprehensive tax reform package which will help fund infrastructure projects under his administration.

“The President accepted that there is a need for some flexibility. The Senate will remain flexible in so far as finally deciding on the amounts on the taxes,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told reporters in an interview.

Drilon made this disclosure a day after some members of the Senate and the House of Representatives were summoned by President Duterte for a meeting on Tuesday (August 1).

This is the first time Drilon was invited by the President for a meeting.

He said that a need for a reform in Philippines’ current tax structure is generally accepted. However, the only contention was a number of tax increases given fears of inflation.

The senator stressed that the President “left it to the good judgment” of the legislature and consultation with the Department of Finance (DOF) as to what is the appropriate tax structure can be passed.

“He (the President) realizes that the Senate as a collegial body will have to seek the views of each senator. He was open to amendments,” he added.

He also said that President Duterte did not impose any deadline for the passage of the tax reform package.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, meanwhile, said that the President being open to amendments meant that the tax package could be “easily” passed.

“Palagay ko mas madaling ipasa kung ganun (I think it could be easily passed). We can find ways to make it more acceptable,” Angara said in a separate interview.

Aside from Drilon and Angara, also present during the meeting with President Duterte were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel II, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, Gringo Honasan, Panfilo Lacson.

House speaker Pantaleon and Alvarez and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas were also present.

It may be recalled that President Duterte, during his second State of the Nation Address, urged the Senate to pass his proposed comprehensive tax reform package “in full”.

Senators previously expressed their doubts to pass the package citing several concerns such as the effect of petroleum taxes and excise taxes on poor sectors.

The House of Representatives has already approved the first package with 246 votes that are in favor, nine that are against it, and one abstention last May 31.

The tax-reform package seeks to lower personal income tax rates, expand the value-added tax (VAT) base, raise excise taxes on petroleum and automobiles, impose an excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages and ease the rates of estate and donor’s taxes. ANP and Angela Coloma-OJT/

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