A Call to PRRD: Please intervene and call on Congress to pass the Sin Tax Law! | SWP Press Release 27 May 2019
SOCIALWATCH PHILS·MONDAY, MAY 27, 2019
A Call to PRRD: Please intervene and call on your partymates and supporters in Congress to pass the Sin Tax Law!
Social Watch Philippines, a civil society watchdog, appeals to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to proactively intervene and prod legislators, especially his partymates and supporters in Congress, to act swiftly and enact a Sin Tax Law. The said law is designed to increase taxes on cigarettes and is geared toward reducing smoking prevalence among Filipinos as well as generate much-needed revenues for the country’s landmark Universal Health Care (UHC) program. While President Duterte has issued a certificate of urgency on the matter, with 6 days left in session in the 17th congress, the fate of the sin tax bill hangs in the balance.
Even before the start of the 2019 Elections, several bills on raising tobacco taxes remained pending for over a year in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Sen. Sonny Angara. Among these bills are the ones filed by Sen. JV Ejercito (PhP90/pack), Sen. Win Gatchalian (PhP70/pack) and Sen. Manny Pacquiao (PhP60/pack). Recently, these bills were revived by Sen. Sonny Angara through a committee report in which Angara proposed a PhP5 yearly increase on tobacco until it reaches PhP60 on the third year of implementation (45-50-55-60 scheme). This committee report has been signed by 11 members of the Senate Ways and Means; namely, Senators Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, Risa Hontiveros, Win Gatchalian, Ping Lacson, Kiko Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Nancy Binay, Loren Legarda, Miguel Zubiri, and Ralph Recto to open the discussion on raising the tax on tobacco. However, while this is a victory for the cause, signing the committee report need not necessarily signal support from the Senators and the passage of this bill still hangs at the balance.
Several health advocates and peoples organizations have been calling for taxing tobacco to the maximum (thus, the slogan ‘tax tobacco to the max’) because the implementation of the UHC program will be seriously hampered without the potential revenues from a Sin Tax Law. The UHC program faces a PhP63 billion deficit, because funding from the national budget, as well as PAGCOR and PCSO combined can only raise PhP195 billion out of the PhP258 billion needed by the UHC. Passing a sin tax law, especially at higher levels of taxation, will cut the funding shortfall significantly.
By ‘taxing tobacco to the max’, more Filipinos can be saved from smoking-related illnesses and deaths, and the UHC program will be in a better position to provide comprehensive health and integrated health programs for all Filipinos. Through ‘taxing tobacco to the max’, SWP envisions a healthier Filipino population with less smokers which will therefore result in less government expenditure required for health care. At present, smoking-related annual health expenditure is pegged, at the minimum, at PhP210 billion. Apart from the apparent health and wellness benefits for the Filipino population, it is projected that the freed up funds due to a better health profile of Filipinos can be used and redirected for infrastructure, education, agriculture, housing, increased job creation, and other social services.
SWP appeals to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to do everything in his power to help promote the passage of a the Sin Tax law in the 17th Congress. Given a remaining 6 day window of opportunity for swift legislative action, time is of the essence. In the event that there is no longer enough time to enact the bill, SWP urges the Senate to explore the possibility of extending its legislative calendar in order to ensure the passage of a good sin tax law, one that ‘taxes tobacco to the max’, for the health of the Filipino people! No less than Presidential support on this matter is encouraged to ensure that the necessary political will—one that characterizes the leadership of this President—is generated in Congress so that the Sin Tax Law will be enacted in record time.
Social Watch Philippines (SWP) is a network of over a hundred civil society organizations and individuals engaged in research and lobby efforts in holding the government accountable for the fulfillment of national, regional and international commitments to eradicate poverty and carry out social, economic, and gender justice. SWP promotes people-centered sustainable development by proactively monitoring the progress and delivery of social commitments forged by the government and influencing the outcomes of policy decisions through citizen's participation in public finance.
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