By Hannah Torregoza
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he might call for a caucus with the majority bloc to discuss the second tax reform package or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) 2 which some senators believe has no chance of passing in the Senate.
Sotto said this after President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers said they would try to convince senators in passing the second tranche of the TRAIN law.
“I’ll probably call for a majority caucus and get the sense of my colleagues before I can give an accurate reading,” Sotto said in a text message.
The Senate leader, however, did not give any details when pressed to reveal when he intends to convene for a caucus or whether this would be after the Department of Finance (DOF) holds a briefing on the benefits of the so-called “Trabaho” bill.
Senators have expressed fear that the “Trabaho” bill may lead to loss of employment opportunities, massive layoffs, and loss of foreign direct investments when enacted into law.
Finance Undersecretary for Strategy, Economics and Results Group Karl Kendrick T. Chua earlier wrote Sotto that they would hold a press briefing on the “Trabaho” bill as part of their efforts in engaging with stakeholders on the importance of the passage of the components of the Duterte administration’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program.
In a media briefing last week, Chua and other finance officials insisted that TRAIN 2 is independent of the current and future inflation as the measure solely focuses on lowering corporate income tax for corporations, especially for micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs.
Sotto earlier broached the possibility that TRAIN 2 may be have a bigger chance of getting approved in the 18th Congress.
“If you are talking about the version that has been broadcast, it would be really hard to hurdle. But I’m hopeful of the version that I’m talking about, but if its really impossible, they should re-file it on July 2019,” Sotto said in a recent press briefing.
It was Sotto who filed the Senate version of the TRAIN 2 when no other senators were inclined to sponsor the tax reform bill.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said he agrees with other senators’ position that the measure warrants further and deeper study before it can be passed.
“We should stay in that momentum of lowering inflation before we come up with the new tax measures or tax proposal that would scare the investor or pullout investors from existing companies in the Philippines,” Zubiri said.
“Because what we don’t want to happen is a perfect storm—dealing with a high inflation, and at the same time addressing the loss of jobs,” Zubiri said.
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, chair of the Senate ways and means committee, for his part expressed hope that the Senate would prioritize the passage of Senate Bill No. 2059 or the proposed Tax Amnesty Act of 2018 which is pending second reading.
“I think the tax amnesty bill will take priority over other revenue bills. Hopefully that can be passed soon,” Angara said.
The proposed amnesty aims to cover unpaid tax obligations due for taxable year 2017 and prior — such as estate taxes, general taxes, and delinquent accounts.
According to the DOF, the said proposal could yield up to P36-billion in government revenues.