Health advocates have urged senators to support proposals to increase the tax on alcohol products, citing the P200 million annual budget of the government that is spent on treatment of Filipinos suffering from alcohol-related diseases.
Advocates belonging to the Sin Tax Coalition called on the Senate to hasten the approval of a measure increasing the excise tax on alcoholic beverages, heated tobacco products, and electronic
cigarettes, which has already been approved in the House of Representatives on third and final reading.
The Senate Ways and Means committee chaired by Senator Pia Cayetano has already started the hearing on the alcohol tax increase.
Sin Tax Coalition co-convenor Anthony Leachon said the tax increase on alcohol and tobacco products will generate revenues for the Universal Health Law that was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year.
Calculations from the Department of Finance showed the government still needs at least P63 billion for the first year of UHC implementation.
As alcohol and tobacco products are the leading causes of non-communicable diseases in the country, Leachon said the proposed measure will discourage Filipinos from excessively consuming the “sin” product.
In his State of the Nation Address last month, Duterte said raising the tax on alcohol and tobacco products was one of his priority measures this Congress.
Under the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, higher excise taxes on alcohol products and e-cigarettes will fall under Package 2+, which seeks to bridge the current funding gap of the UHC program.
“Our UHC program is moving forward. But I really want to see it further funded. That’s where my passion is coming from to make these [tax reforms] happen. We want to be able to help our people feel the effects [of UHC],” Cayetano said.
“At the end of the day, taxation is not just to raise funds. It’s also to protect the health of Filipinos,” she added.