Sari-sari store owners ask senators to hold off imposing more excise tax on cigarettes

By Jean Fernando

Sari-sari store owners are asking senators to hold off further excise tax hikes, saying that cigarette sales make up as much as 30 percent of their daily revenues.

A smoker lights a cigarette along EDSA in Quezon City, MArch 7, 2017. President Duterte will sign an Executive ORder that prohibits smoking in public areas nationwide. (Mark Balmores)

Kapisanan ng mga Sari-sari store sa Pilipinas (KASAPI) president Francis Manuel said that reducing consumption through higher excise taxes could drive many small stores out of business.

Manuel said that KASAPI said members from the provinces noted the irony that a number of smokers have stopped buying from their stores after the twin cigarette excise tax increases last year, but simply turned to buying from shady stores selling cheap, counterfeit cigarettes.

“Smokers have not stopped smoking. They have stopped buying from us. They are buying from other stores selling illegal products,” Manuel stressed.

Manuel also said that during a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing last January, the KASAPI members already pleaded with senators to hold off any plan to increase the excise tax on cigarettes and alcohol products to protect their main source of livelihood.

“We plead that you come to our aid and provide protection so that our livelihood and lives are not destroyed due to harmful taxes,” Manuel added.

The group also said that they strongly oppose any further increase in excise taxes on tobacco products, alcohol, softdrinks and other goods being sold in their stores.

They said that since excise taxes on sweetened beverages were increased last year, prices of these products increased from 30 percent to 100 percent.

Manuel explained that prior to the tax hike, sweetened beverages constituted 40 percent of sari-sari store sales but because of high prices this was not the case anymore.

For tobacco products, Manuel, who has a store in Mandaluyong City, said cigarettes provide 30 percent of their daily sales and expressed fears that new tax hikes would only further reduce their sales.

KASAPI said the impact of the fuel tax increase last year was also felt by store owners as this increased the prices of goods sold in their stores resulting in as much as 20 percent of sales dropping.

They appealed to senators to heed their plea saying “even if small, sari-sari store owners are proud of their livelihood and do not rely on the government’s 4Ps for our subsistence.”

The store owners asked why they should be the ones to suffer because of the government’s efforts to supposedly source funds to support the universal health care program when there are a lot of other sources to obtain the funds from.

“It is unconscionable that we the small ones who depend on our daily sales for our day to day food have to endure another blow of new taxes,” Manuel protested.

The group said since the various tax increases last year on many goods including fuel, each store owner has to shell out bigger capital requirement and some are forced to borrow from informal lenders – 5/6 scheme – to survive.

The Nielsen Retail Index cited there are more than one million sari-sari stores in the country that provide livelihood to families and convenience to consumers in communities and barangays who do not have to go far to purchase their daily needs.