House OKs tax hike on alcohol, vape products on third reading

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 21, 2019   •   945

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the bill which seeks to increase taxes on alcohol and vape products.

Based on House Bill No. 1026 “distilled spirits shall have an excise tax of 22% of the retail price, as well as an additional specific tax of P35 per proof liter in 2020, P40 in 2021 and P45 in 2022. The specific tax shall be increased by seven percent every year afterwards.”

The Committee on Ways and Means chairman Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda assures the excise tax on tobacco products, as stated in the bill, is only for vape products.

“So if you are so afraid of the tobacco taxes, there are no new tobacco taxes (in the bill) except for vape which is not a tobacco product. It is essentially a vape, non-combustion,” he said.

Salcedo added that vape products will have an increase of P30 in excise tax from the current P10.

The bill states that selling heated tobacco products and vapor products at prices lower than the combined excise and value-added tax rates required by the law shall be prohibited.

There will also be a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee which will be referred to as the Oversight Committee on Illicit Trade on Excisable Products.

The said committee will (a) evaluate the programs and performance of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in addressing illicit trade on excisable products and recommend remedial legislation; (b) require concerned agencies to submit reports and data that can aid in resolving illicit trade of excisable products; (c) hold public hearings; and (d) deputize the BIR, the BOC, the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation and other enforcement government agencies as may be needed, among others.

Meanwhile, DOF Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua told reporters last Thursday (Aug 15) that they are not satisfied with the House version of the bill.

“We are not satisfied with the House version, but it’s a starting point. We hope to convince senators to go for higher rates for the universal health care program,” he said.—AAC

House records 98 new cases after COVID-19 mass testing

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Ninety-eight individuals in the House of Representatives tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) following a mass testing conducted in the lower chamber.

In a statement on Tuesday, House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza said the number represents nearly five percent of 2,000 House lawmakers and employees who underwent reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing since November 10.

Mendoza, however, did not say how many of these individuals were House lawmakers and personnel.

“It’s the first time a mass testing was conducted in the House since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, and this happened less than one month after Speaker [Lord Allan] Velasco assumed office,” he said.

According to Mendoza, almost all COVID-19 positive cases were asymptomatic.

“All those who tested positive were directed to self-isolate to avoid passing the virus to others and immediate tracing of their close contacts was conducted,” he said.

Prior to November 10, the House already registered more than 80 COVID-19 cases since March. Almost all of them have recovered, except for two lawmakers and three employees who succumbed to the disease.

The testing laboratory commissioned by the House has reported the cases to the Department of Health, while the chamber’s in-house medical service made proper coordination with concerned Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams, Mendoza said.

The Lower House will also continue to operate under strict health and safety protocols as it coordinates with the Quezon City government for the conduct of a more extensive contact tracing, he added.

Visitors are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before they can be granted access to the offices inside the complex.

All those entering the House need to wear masks and face shields, pass through thermal scanners and disinfection machines, and observe physical distancing at all times.

House members, employees and guests are required to submit an accomplished health declaration form to inform the chamber of their health status before being allowed to enter its premises.

All offices and buildings within the complex are also disinfected daily.

The House of Representatives is conducting a hybrid session that combines physical presence with teleconferencing to tackle legislative measures.

Quezon City gov’t, Congress to work closely to Batasan COVID-19 cases

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Quezon City government and the House of Representatives have agreed to work closely to control and manage the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the lower chamber.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Monday said House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco have committed to provide the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU) with a copy of the reported COVID-19 cases in Congress for contact tracing purposes.

To assist the House of Representatives, the city government will dispatch its mobile testing UNIT that will administer PCR swab test to its employees.

Velasco previously instructed the team in-charge to prepare a comprehensive report on the results of the mass COVID-19 testing conducted in Congress and submit it immediately to the city government.

Before Congress resumed session in November, Velasco initiated the COVID testing in the lower chamber.

“We wanted to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the Batasan Complex – House Members, employees, and even guests— while the legislative chamber carries out its constitutional duties in these critical times,” he said.

The city government earlier learned that the Lower House recorded 28 Covid-19 cases.

“Contact tracing is important so we can isolate possible carriers and to protect communities,” Belmonte said.

House names contingent to bicam panel on proposed 2021 national budget

Robie de Guzman   •   November 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives said it has formed a 21-member contingent to the bicameral conference committee on the proposed P4.506-trillion nation budget for 2021.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the contingent will make sure that the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will be signed into law before the year ends.

“We have to make sure the GAB lands on President Duterte’s desk for his signature before the year ends to prevent a reenacted spending program that could slow economic growth and hamper the delivery of government services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Velasco said in a statement Wednesday.

The House contingent, led by Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap, will represent the lower chamber to the bicam panel tasked to reconcile the provisions of House Bill 7727 or the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2021.

Yap will be joined by vice-chairpersons Deputy Speakers Salvador “Doy” Leachon and Mikee Romero, and 16 members from the majority, namely, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo “Rimpy” Bondoc, Rizal Rep. Michael John Duavit, Deputy Majority Leader Bernadette Herrera, Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona, Negros Occidental Rep. Francisco Benitez, Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison.

The contingent also includes Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, Assistant Majority Leader Kristine Singson-Meehan, Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno, Deputy Speaker Jose “Lito” Atienza, Batangas Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain, Valenzuela Rep. Eric Martinez, Abra Rep. Joseph Bernos, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, and Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie Gatchalian.

Also joining the contingent were Minority Leader Joseph Stephen “Caraps” Paduano and independent lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

The designation of the House contingent was in anticipation of the Senate approval of the 2021 GAB, Velasco said.

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