Antismoking advocates to monitor sin tax use

MANILA, Philippines–Antismoking advocates and medical groups on Tuesday said they intend to examine how the Department of Health (DOH) has been spending its share of the sin tax revenue collections in the two years since the law came into effect.

The manner in which the DOH has been spending the funds collected from sin taxes needed looking into to ensure that Filipinos are getting easier access to health care in general, said Dr. Maricar Limpin, executive director of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP).

Limpin told reporters that the FCAP was unhappy with the way the DOH has used the funds since the sin tax law was implemented in December 2012, noting that the agency has mainly focused on expanding the coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

According to FCAP, the DOH had a P14-billion share from the actual 2013 sin tax revenue collections and P44 billion in 2014.

Approved by Congress on Dec. 11, 2012, and signed by President Aquino about a week after, the sin tax law increased the taxes on the so-called sin products tobacco and alcohol. The law provides that a major portion of the revenues collected be allocated for the universal health care program under the National Health Insurance Program, and for medical assistance and health enhancement facilities program.

The FCAP and the Philippine College of Physicians and Action for Economic Reform, which were among the groups that worked for the passage of the sin tax law, will be conducting a survey in the different communities to gauge how well the DOH spent the funds in the past two years, Limpin said.

Last year, former Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the sin tax law was providing health benefits to Filipinos by contributing additional funds for the implementation of the health agency’s Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (universal health care) program.

Ona reported in May last year that the DOH spent its share of the sin tax revenues on the expansion of PhilHealth coverage to 14.7 million poor families while the rest of the funds would be allocated to upgrading state health facilities.

“The primary objective is to put sin tax money on health in general, which includes PhilHealth coverage… but enrollment is not enough,” Limpin pointed out.

“Filipinos should really feel that the PhilHealth and the sin tax money are really working for them, that when they go to any health facility, a doctor will attend to them without worrying about expenses,” she added.

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