Fariñas bares 14 priority bills before 17th Congress adjourns sine die

MANILA — Both chambers of Congress have agreed to pass 14 priority measures before going on sine die adjournment on June 3, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said on Tuesday.

Fariñas made the announcement following a meeting among House and Senate leaders, who identified the priority bills that both chambers will approve this month.

“These bills will be approved by both chambers until May 31. This is a joint agreement between the House and the Senate,” Fariñas said.

Among the 14 priority bills are: Free Internet Access in Public Place Act; Free Higher Education Act; Philippine Mental Health Act; amendments to the Philippine Passport Act; Revised Penal Code Indexation; Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act; Community service in lieu of imprisonment for the penalty of arresto menor; Refusal of hospital and medical clinics to administer medical treatment in emergency cases; Free Irrigation Services Act; and Enhanced Universal Healthcare Act.

Extension of Driver’s License Validity; Agrarian and Agricultural Credit Condonation Act; Inclusion of Casinos in Anti-Money Laundering Act coverage; and a measure prohibiting the conversion of irrigated land are also included.

Fariñas, however, said the comprehensive tax reform bill will not be passed by June due to lack of material time.

This is contrary to the target of House Committee Ways and Means chair Dakilo Cua who eyed the bill’s passage in the lower chamber before the sine die adjournment.

The tax reform bill is still being fine-tuned by a technical working group headed by Cua.

Under the bill, workers earning no more than PHP250,000 annually will be exempted from paying personal income taxes (PIT).

To compensate for the revenue losses from the lowering of the PIT rates, some of the offsetting measures include increasing excise tax rates on all petroleum products and automobiles; expanding the value added tax (VAT) base by limiting exemptions to raw food and other necessities; and taxing Philippine Charity Sweepstakes numbers’ game and lotto winnings. Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA-northboundasia.com