SWP to Senator Angara: Senator Ejercito has done his part to raise tobacco tax; now it’s your turn | SWP PR
2 Oct 2018
SOCIALWATCH PHILS·TUESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2018
SWP to Senator Angara: Senator Ejercito has done his part to raise tobacco tax; now it’s your turn
Social Watch Philippines (SWP) has once again challenged Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sonny Angara to do his job and start holding meetings on the proposed legislation on increased tobacco tax or Senate Bill 1605.
Senator Joseph Victor JV Ejercito, the proponent of Senate Bill 1605 which raises tobacco tax to P90/pack says that the measure is meant to ensure that there will be less new smokers. Furthermore, it is a source of additional funding for Senate Bill 1896 or the Universal Health Care bill (UHC).
Meanwhile, SWP continues to express its disappointment on the inaction of Senator Angara as the bill has been pending for almost a year without public hearings and consultations, despite citizens’ clamor for tobacco tax increase.
“Senator Angara must, in the name of all poor Filipino people who voted and trusted him, act on the bill. Since last year, various citizens’ groups have been calling on the Senator to give attention to the children, young people, and poor Filipinos whose health and lives are being affected by smoking day by day. We don’t understand what is taking him too long, ” SWP said.
Senator Angara, in his tweet reply to SWP’s press release, justified his failure to act on the bill by saying “[It is] not true [that there is] inaction. Taxes on cigarettes were increased this year. For further/newer increases must originate from the House under the Constitution.”
SWP belies Angara's claim. According to them, the Senate and House of Representatives are a bicameral legislature where public hearings and technical working groups on filed bills can be conducted independently. The Senate always has the option of coming up with a better tobacco tax bill compared with the one passed in the Lower House.
“Senator Angara should not muddle the issue and hide behind the initiative of the House of Representatives to justify his legislative inaction so that the public will forget that he has been sitting on a bill calling for tax increase on tobacco for almost a year,” SWP said.
Meantime, Ejercito assured the public of the likelihood that the UHC Bill will be passed this October. However, SWP also cites the lack of funding for the implementation of the bill which requires around P270 billion for the first year alone, and that the immediate increase in tobacco tax is a viable funding source.
Ejercito also expressed preference to taxing tobacco over oil products as a revenue-generating measure given the negative impact of the latter on the rise of goods and services. Increasing taxes on tobacco, on the other hand, will increase cigarette prices and will thereby lessen the number of anticipated new smokers in the country. Currently, cigarette price in the Philippines is still the cheapest compared to neighboring countries in Asia.
SWP, together with its allied organizations, has been pushing for the passage of the two linked proposed bills that are already pending in the Senate: tobacco tax increase to P90/pack and a people-centered Universal Health Care, through Senate Bills 1605 and 1896, respectively.
The group reminded Senator Angara that his mandate as a legislator is to serve the Filipino people and not corporate interests in the country. ###
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