Congressmen from Negros Occidental and key sugar players are making a headwayin their advocacy that will soon guarantee the industry a share from the excise tax imposed on companies selling sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs), Bacolod Rep. Greg Gasataya said yesterday.
Gasataya, vice chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, told the DAILY STAR, that the concern was raised by sugar industry leaders, who paid them a courtesy visit in Congress Wednesday.
Gasataya said the group cited legal basis for their concern that is being championed by Sugar Board member Dino Yulo and Tatak Kalamay convenors Raymond Montinola, Dave Alba and Gerro Locsin that's why Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva (Neg. Occ., 2nd District) , chair of the Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries, arranged the group's meeting with Rep. Joey Salceda (Albay, 2nd District) immediately.
Salceda chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
Also at the meeting was Rep. Gerardo Valmayor (Neg. Occ., 1st District).
During their discussion, Yulo and the group were advised by Salceda to immediately work on a proposed communication detailing their position that the industry deserves a share of the excise tax generated from sugar sweetened beverages.
Asked for a ball park figure, or an absolute equivalent in peso of the excise tax collected from SSBs, Yulo said it would range somewhere between P35 billion to P38 billion.
"It's around that amount. A small percentage of that (should go to the sugar industry). Our hope is to be able to tap into the proceeds of the excise tax from SSBs," Yulo, a lawyer, told the DAILY STAR.
If we follow the excise tax on tobacco products, Yulo said whatever is collected from SSBs will be channeled through the local government units in sugar-producing provinces for distribution to sugar farmers.
These are accrued benefits that sugar farmers, workers truly deserve, Yulo added.
In early October this year, Salceda, during the House oversight hearing on earmarked funds from excise taxes pursuant to Republic Act 10963 or the TRAIN Law, expressed disappointment that tens of thousands of sugar farmers have not benefitted from the taxes collected from firms producing SSBs.
He then directed the Department of Budget and Management to effect what he termed as "institutional amendments" in the proposed P4.1 trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2020 to include computation for the sugar industry's share from SSBs.
"It's worth looking into it immediately. It's a positive development for the sugar industry especially during these hard and trying times," Cueva said.
Gasataya said he is hoping that sugar industry leaders will move swiftly on the advice given by Salceda as it will redound to the benefit of the industry as a whole.
“If the law says that the industry should be given a share from SSBs excise tax, it has to be done in sugar-producing areas. That's why Cong. Salceda is in support of the move. Tatak Kalamay has to craft the communication now then we will work it out in Congress,” Gasataya said.
Yulo said he will also communicate similar concerns to Rep. Francisco Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) and other legislators from the region to rally support from congressmen belonging to the Visayan bloc.*
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