By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The Lower Chamber is dead set to pass on second reading on Monday the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill, which seeks to lower personal income tax (PIT) rates and make the current tax system fairer, simpler and more efficient.
Quirino Rep. Dakila Carlo Cua, chairman of the House committee on ways and means and principal author of TRAIN under House Bill (HB) No. 5636, said they will put to vote the controversial measure on second reading Monday.
“I am proposing to have second reading vote tomorrow (May 29). I believe that the bill has been discussed thoroughly and has the support of the majority of our colleagues,” he said in an interview.
When asked if the bill will be put to vote on third and final reading before Congress adjourns sine die this week, he said, “the Majority Leader would be the best person to answer your questions on scheduling.”
House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas assured that the TRAIN bill will be approved on second reading this week before they adjourn on June 2.
Deputy Speaker and Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, who headed the House committee on ways and means during the previous 16th Congress, said President Duterte has to certify the passage of the bill as urgent to ensure that Congress will approve it on third and final reading.
“Third reading on TRAIN is possible only if the President certifies the bill as urgent. As you remember, we can only vote a measure on third reading if copies of the second reading bill are provided the members at least three days prior to voting. There are only three session days left and no second reading approval yet. Without the presidential certification, it’s now a physical impossibility,” he said in a separate interview.
AKO BICOL partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe, president of the Party List Coalition (PLC) composed of 47 representatives, said they are counting on the House leadership’s promise to retain the VAT exemption of cooperatives in HB 5636.
“It will be grossly unfair for our taxpayers to subsidize cooperatives, which is the DOF counter- proposal if and when coops are subjected to tax. Coops are sui generis, a different kind of sector, designed more appropriately as social enterprises to encourage self-help and entrepreneurship to enhance inclusive economic growth, especially in the countryside. Exempting them from VAT is one way of promoting coops among our people. Being a self- help organization, it is anathema to their inherent nature to beg for subsidy or dole-outs to the government,” he said.
He maintained that members are considering to abstain during the scheduled second reading voting of the TRAIN, unless a compromised agreement is reached.
“We are of the understanding that coops are still VAT exempt. That is why we thank our speaker and the House leadership. We will consider our option including abstaining after reaching a consensus,” Batocabe said.
Deputy Minority Leader and COOP-NATCCO partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo said at least 155 lawmakers, 117 of whom are district representatives have signed a petition expressing their full support for the retention of VAT exemption of cooperatives.
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