Philippines: DOH: Tobacco tax hike bill to help fund universal healthcare law

1 March 2019
Christia Marie Ramos
Inquirer:

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) renewed its call for the passage of a bill that would increase tax on tobacco and alcoholic drinks, citing that doing so would save lives and would help fund the newly signed Universal Healthcare Act.

“The Department of Health would like to emphasize, that Sin Taxes are first and foremost, a health measure that will discourage Filipinos to smoke and excessively consume alcohol,” DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement on Thursday.

“As global evidence suggests, taxation is the single, most cost-effective measure to safeguard the public from the harms of tobacco and alcohol use and their accompanying societal costs”, he added.

The DOH said that the passage of such a measure would allow the country to reach its Non-communicable Disease (NCD) Target to reduce smoking prevalence to 15 percent by 2022.

The House version of the sin tax reform bill, which has already been approved on third and final reading, seeks to impose an additional tax of P2.50 for every pack of cigarettes.

Meanwhile, Senators Manny Pacquiao and JV Ejercito separately filed a bill at the Senate to propose an excise tax on a pack of cigarettes higher than the levy in the version passed by the House.

Pacquiao’s Senate Bill No. 1599 seeks to increase the tax to P60 per pack while Ejercito’s Senate Bill No. 1605 wants to raise it to P90 — both substantially higher than the current P32.50 per pack.

The DOH noted that any rate lower than P60 will expose an unacceptable number of Filipinos to  tobacco-related illnesses.

The DOH added that the UHC Act will require a projected P257 billion in the first year of its implementation, assuming reforms are spread out over a 10-year period.

If there is lack of sufficient and sustained funding, the full implementation of the UHC will be hampered.

“Sin tax saves lives, promotes inclusiveness, and is a protective health policy reform that will enable us to build a healthier nation,” Duque said. / gsg