Sotto signs onward for TRAIN 2

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III.

When nobody among his peers stepped forward to take the cause, Senate President Vicente Sotto III yesterday said he will file a counterpart bill in support of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) 2.

Sotto said his action was spurred by his review of the proposal by the Department of Finance (DoF).

Initially, the Senate President noted the positive impact of the DoF proposal on small and medium businesses as a cause to support the TRAIN 2.

“It appears that it will be beneficial to Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and they comprise 65 percent of our economy,” Sotto said.

“I’m reviewing it and I might file (Wednesday). That will also allow the Senate to discuss it then,” he added.

No willing body
Not one senator expressed support to the TRAIN 2 as they fear electoral backlash if they will sponsor its counterpart bill at the Upper House. The mid-term elections are set next year with many incumbent senators expected to seek reelection.

At the House of Representatives, there is already a measure supporting the TRAIN 2. It has reached committee level discussion.

Sotto raised the possibility of huge corporations lobbying against TRAIN 2 as it would cut tax and other incentives afforded to them in the present set up.

“We should be strong against lobby from big corporations,” Sotto said.

The Senate President, however, urged big corporations to sacrifice a bit for the benefit of the majority.

“If the rich people are eating 16 ounce of steak, make it 8 ounces. Still you eat steak,” Sotto said.

Sotto is the first senator to publicly announce intention to file a measure in support of TRAIN 2.

Earlier, he had said there were still senators willing to file a measure to support Package 2 of TRAIN — blamed by government critics for the rising prices of basic commodities.

This, even after President Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address last Monday, expressed hopes he could sign the TRAIN 2 before the year ends to support the government’s “build, build, build” program.

Even allies of Mr. Duterte distanced themselves from filing a measure to support TRAIN 2.

DoF push
Sotto said he had been enlightened by the position of (DoF) and it now contrasts with the claim earlier made by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri that the proposal has no takers in the Senate.

“I’ll file a counterpart,” Sotto said, noting that DoF undersecretary Karl Chua’s explanation of the measure’s benefits was “very enlightening.”

“It opened my eyes. We should debate on it in the Senate,” he said.

According to DoF, TRAIN 2 would cut corporate income taxes and rationalize tax incentives given to investors.

The first package of the tax reform law reduced personal income tax rates and at the same time increased excise taxes for petroleum products, automobiles and imposed levy on sugar sweetened beverages.

p: jem