Health, finance departments urge lawmakers to pass sin tax bill

By Analou De Vera

The Health and Finance departments on Wednesday urged lawmakers to pass the measure that will increase excise tax rates on tobacco and alcohol products to help fund the Universal Health Care (UHC).

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)
(Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Ito po ay isang napakagandang batas na kung mabibigyan po ng sapat na pondo para ma-implement po ito, maiiwasan na po natin yung mga namamatay na Pilipino na hindi man lang nakapag-avail ng health services o nakapunta man lamang sa isang opsital o klinika para lamang magkaroon ng tamang health services na kailangan,” said Health Assistant Secretary Atty. Charade Grande during a forum in Malate, Manila.

(If this law will be given adequate funds for its implementation, we can avoid cases of those Filipinos who had died without even availing necessary health services.)

Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said there is still a funding gap of about P62 billion for the implementation of the UHC law.

“It’s a world-class or first class law pero kung kulang po ang pondo, third-class implementation lamang ang maibibigay ng UHC,” said Chua.

(It’s a world-class or first class law, but if the fund is not enough, the UHC can only provide a ‘third-class implementation.’)

“Kung hindi po natin popondohan yung funding gap na umaabot na sa P62 billion… hindi po natin maibibigay yung first-class service lalo na po sa mahihirap. Ibig sabihin nito, baka hindi lahat makakuha ng magandang serbisyo o pwedeng lahat ay makakuha ng serbisyo pero kulang,” he added.

(If we will not address the funding gap, we cannot provide the first class service especially to the poor people. It means, not all can avail good [health] services or all people may avail the services but it will not be enough.)

To note, around P257 billion is needed for the first year of the full implementation of the UHC next year.

Sources of funding for UHC include the Department of Health budget, PhilHealth subsidy, and contributions of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.