Negros legislators oppose sugar excise tax

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BACOLOD CITY: Local legislators in Negros Occidental and its capital Bacolod City passed resolutions recently opposing the proposed excise tax on beverages sweetened with locally-produced sugar.

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In a resolution on Wednesday, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Negros Occidental unanimously approved a resolution urging lawmakers to reduce the proposed excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages from P10 to P5 per liter, in support of the stand of the Visayan bloc in the House of Representatives.

Board Member Alain Gatuslao (5th District), chairman of the committee on laws and ordinances, said the resolution also urged other local government units in Negros Occidental and the Visayas region to support the tax reduction.

Gatuslao pointed out that while the government may earn P22 billion from the excise tax, it will have a great impact on the economy and livelihood of the sugar-producing provinces, majority of whose residents rely mainly on sugar.

On the same day, the Bacolod City Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) also passed a resolution opposing the proposed excise tax on sugar and the expansion of the value-added tax (VAT), a part of the comprehensive tax reform package of the Duterte administration.

Bacolod Councilor Caesar Distrito said the tax reform package aims to increase taxes on basic commodities, as well as individual income. Among the commodities included in package fuel.

There will be an initial P3 tax increase per liter of diesel, which will increase to P5 by 2019, and eventually hit P6 by 2020, Distrito said, adding that kerosene and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) will also be included in the tax, at P6 per liter.

He said the tax package also covers the imposition of a P10 per liter excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSB).

“Imposition of these taxes will surely affect the daily consumption of our citizens,” Distrito warned. “With higher fuel prices, the prices of basic commodities will also increase.”

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. is also pushing for lower excise tax on sugar, and that the P5 levy on sugar proposed by Rep. Alfredo Benitez (3rd District, Negros Occidenbtal should be lowered further to P2.50 or P2.

The Sugar Alliance of the Philippines has asked Congress for at least five to six years’ exemption from the excise tax, which they said will only bring the sugar industry down.

Lawyer Dino Yulo, SAP spokesman, said the sugar industry is just starting its modernization program under the P2-billion Sugar Industry Development Fund (SIDF) so it can be more productive and globally competitive.

“Having this excise tax implemented now will defeat the very purpose of the fund coming from government,” Yulo added.

Earlier, Benitez said there was a proposal that 15 percent of the proceeds from excise tax be allocated to the sugar industry, on top of the P2 billion annually from the SIDF.

Abang-Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano, on the other hand, proposed that the 15 percent share in the projected P3.5-billion incremental revenue– from the P10 per liter excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages — be given directly to the sugar milling districts through the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

EUGENE Y. ADIONG

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