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Small lady making big strides: Gloria lobbying for House’s TRAIN 2 in Senate

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By Xave Gregorio

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is pushing for the Senate to consider the House’s version of the second package of the administration’s tax reform program, or TRAIN 2, which it rebranded as the TRABAHO bill.

Arroyo met with Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III Monday (September 10) asking him to review the House’s TRABAHO bill, which she said stands a better chance of passing in the upper chamber, which is still reeling from price increases attributed to the first package of the tax reform program.

“Kinausap nga ako ni Speaker GMA tungkol doon, ang sabi niya, ‘Pag-aralan daw namin, basahin ko raw ang version nila, ‘yung pinasa nila, mas maganda raw at mas malaki ang pagasa sa amin,’” Sotto told reporters in a chance interview Tuesday (September 11).

In response, Sotto agreed to review the TRABAHO Bill and asked other senators to do the same.

Sotto said it is possible that he would withdraw or have his version of TRAIN 2 archived in favor of the House’s version, if he finds it “substantial” and “good.” The Senate may also adopt the House’s version, which passed Monday.

“Baka magkaroon ng pag-asang mapasa ‘yan, if it is going to be beneficial, it will not redound to additional problem on taxes or will not contribute again to inflation we will definitely support it,” Sotto said.

Both Sotto’s Senate Bill No. 1906 and the House’s TRABAHO, or the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and high Quality Opportunities, bill seeks to cut the corporate income tax rate to entice more businesses to the country and rationalize tax incentives.

However, the latter eyes a larger cut to 20 percent from 30 percent, while Sotto’s bill seeks to bring it down to 25 percent.

Sotto had to take up the cudgels of filing the second package of the second package of the administration’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) as no senator wanted anything to do with it following the spike in consumer goods which has been blamed on TRAIN 1, which cut personal income tax rates but increased excise taxes on certain products and services, including petroleum products.

As inflation has hit a nine-year high last August to 6.4 percent, lawmakers are clamoring for the fuel excise taxes imposed by TRAIN 1 to be suspended.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also questioned the timing of the push for TRAIN 2, which he said may be inflationary.

“TRAIN 2 may be inflationary because it increases taxes on domestic industries such as housing, power, petroleum, among other things. It will also increase taxes and cost of exporters and BPOs, and therefore reduce incentives to invest in enterprises that earn foreign exchange which our economy badly needs at this time,” Recto said.

But Sotto said his colleagues in the Senate expressing doubt towards TRAIN 2 have only been able to read the original proposal.

“‘Di naman maipapasa agad ‘yan at saka kung ang effect nito makakatulong, ‘di ba? Kasi perhaps my other colleagues are looking at the original TRAIN 2 kaya ganoon,” Sotto said.

Aside from TRAIN 2, Sotto said he and Arroyo talked about 11 issues, largely centering on proposed measures, but did not go into further detail.