Senators divided over proposals to amend, repeal TRAIN law

Senators are split on calls to repeal or suspend the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law amid warnings aired by Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez that it could derail the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

Asked on Monday if he sees the Senate voting in favor of remedial legislation to scrap or amend the TRAIN law, Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III replied with a terse “no.”

Reacting to reports that fellow lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives are poised to push legislation amending the TRAIN law soon after Congress reconvenes regular sessions this week, Sotto suggested critics should take a second look at the plus side of the revenue measure.

“Those against it should consider the good portions of TRAIN,” Sotto told the BusinessMirror.

For instance, Sotto pointed out that estate taxes used to be pegged at 40 percent, “now it is 6 percent. Do we want to remove that?”

“How about the tax on vanity? Should we take it out?” he asked.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto, in a text message to the BusinessMirror, also indicated he does not see the Senate majority bloc backing legislation repealing the TRAIN law.

“I do not expect that to happen,” Recto said.

Sen. Gregorio B. Honasan II, however, did not completely rule out a scenario where senators would likely vote to amend the TRAIN law “if it is prioritized effectively and decided in the Ledac,” referring to the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.

Sen. Joseph Victor G. Ejercito shared the same view, saying lawmakers have a chance to correct the “amended” tax rates in the existing law.

“That is a possibility because the Senate’s approved version of the TRAIN had much-lower excise taxes on petroleum and sugar-sweetened beverages compared to the original version,” Ejercito told the BusinessMirror.

He recalled that the bicameral panel tasked to reconcile the Senate-House versions of the original TRAIN law “increased all the rates.”

“I was disappointed with the bicam version,” Ejercito added.

This developed as Sen. Paulo Benigno A. Aquino IV confirmed to the BusinessMirror that three other senators have already spoken out about the “negative effects” of the TRAIN law.        

“I am hoping more will support the bill I filed, which suspends the excise taxes for petroleum in the TRAIN law,” Aquino said.

He added the “safeguard” found in his bill, which is based on high inflation, was carried by the Senate in the TRAIN Senate version, “but was deleted in the bicam.”

“So there is precedence for support from my fellow senators for this mechanism which can bring the prices of petroleum products down if inflation over shoots the specified target range set by the government,” Aquino said.

But Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III promptly ruled out repealing the TRAIN law when asked if he sees such a move gaining a majority support of senators. “Malabo ’yan [That’s impossible].”

Pimentel, however, left the door open to the possibility of amending perceived onerous provisions in the existing tax law. “Depends on the tenor of the amendment.”

For instance, on Aquino’s bill suspending excise tax on petroleum, the Senate President said: “if the Department of Finance [DOF] objects to the bill, then it won’t pass.”

“We need the DOF to project the revenue flow of the government,” Pimentel told the BusinessMirror on Monday. (By Butch Fernandez, Business Mirror)


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