Philippines-Lawmakers asked to free kids from cigarettes

The public hearing on tobacco excise tax at the House of Representatives by the Committee on Ways and Means last Monday, 13 December, barely lasted 2 hours. Nevertheless, three of our champions in Congress – Rep. Niel Tupas, Rep. Dina Abad, and Rep. Henry Teves, brought to light very important questions that the sub-committee chairman, Rep. Eric Singson (representative from tobacco-industry-friendly Ilocos Sur) acknowledged as pertinent to the deliberation process.



The highlights of the meeting were:
  • invitation to NTA, DA, DOF, DBM, DOH to give input re revenue, health costs, alternative livelihood, earmarked from excise tax to NTA, etc.
  • inquiry on importation of tobacco – how much are being imported, how much is locally produced
  • input of tobacco industry/NTA that the taxes is hindrance for local farmers to produce more tobacco
  • inquiry as to where the funds for alternative livelihood/safety net of NTA were spent
  • inquiry on the position papers of the experts
  • move to provide copies of the house bills to all experts
  • The hearing was convened by the sub-committee of the Committee on Ways and Means that is consolidating the bills related to amendments of the National Internal Revenue Code. Rep. Owen Singson is the chair of the sub-committee and about 6 of its 13 members are known to be allied with the tobacco industry.
    The speeches of Rep. Tupas and Rep. Abad explaining the
    bills they filed were very strong offensive positioning as they challenged the tobacco industry to comment and give their position on the proposals. they also asked Rep. Singson to allow them to invite resource persons who can shed more light on the discussion of the technical working group that will be convened soon.

    The committee hearing was a good step for civil society as the presence of the key champions showed that there is a chance to steer the deliberations towards a more improved, health-friendly tobacco tax.

    Present during the meeting were members of the medical community – Philippine Medical Association, Philippine College of Physicians represented by Dr. Maricar Limpin, Chair of the Advocacy Committee and Philippine College of
    Chest Physicians represented by its President, Dr. Abundio Balgos; SITT/SEATCA, represented by Ms. Jeng Reyes, other tobacco control advocates, and representatives from the tobacco industry.

    (by Ms. May-I Fabros, Comm Manager of HealthJustice and Ms. Joyce Sierra, Comm Manager of FCAP)

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