With the imminent signing of the Universal Health Care, and in response to Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque and health advocates’ appeal to senators to raise tobacco tax, Senator Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday said he would push for the approval of the Tobacco Tax Bill.
“I would like to commend Senator Angara for hearing Senate Bill 1599 on November 26 and Senator JV Ejercito for filing a similar bill and for the pursuance of the measure,” said Pacquiao.
Senate Bill 1599, filed by Pacquiao which proposes to raise cigarette excise tax to PHP 60 per pack is pending on the level of the Committee on Ways and Means.
A similar bill filed by Senate Committee on Health Chairperson JV Ejercito to increase the price of cigarettes to P90 per pack has also been pending.
“My proposal will help decrease the total number of smokers in the country by one million before the end of President’s term. This goes to show that the when the number of smokers in the country declines, the number of people getting sick because of cigarette smoking would therefore decrease,” said Pacquiao.
The House of Representatives approved House Bill 8677 that sets a rate of P37.50 in 2019, P40 in 2020, P42.50 in 2021, and P45 in 2022.
The Sin Tax Coalition led by health practitioners said the small rate increment will increase the number of smokers by 200,000 each year. Worse, they said, it would translate to 2,000 yearly deaths from purely tobacco-related diseases.
“By raising the tobacco excise tax rates, as what my primary measure calls, will help safeguard the health of the Filipinos. This would provide a big relief especially to marginalized Filipino families,” Pacquiao said.
“By discouraging them from buying higher-priced cigarettes, they would opt to focus on accounting for their basic necessities of their family, such as food. In the end, this would also lessen the chance of them acquiring tobacco-related diseases, that would result in health care costs causing burden to the family,” he added.
In a statement issued to the media on Wednesday, Pacquiao said the passage of the UHC bill provides for an equally important reason why additional revenues are needed from tobacco tax.
“UHC is a huge reform that would bring in significant benefits to all Filipinos, particularly the poor, but the government would be needing sustained funding resources to ensure that these promises are realized. The bills proposing to increase the excise taxes on tobacco products is pending on the committee level. Its passage would fulfill the financing requirements of UHC,” said Pacquiao.
“Together with Senator JV, and with the help of the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, we can contribute to the health aspect of our country.” Pacquiao said.