By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The share of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) from the collection of the increased excise taxes on sin products and sugar-sweetened drinks under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law is short by about P28.3 billion based on the proposed 2020 national budget, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said on Thursday.
Recto said the DOH and the Philhealth “should not be begging for funds” and should be getting what is due to them as mandated by law, citing Republic Act No.11346 which mandates that 50 percent of excise tax collections on sin products and sugar-sweetened drinks shall be earmarked for health.
He added that 80 percent of this excise tax share shall be “allocated and used exclusively” for the Universal Health Care (UHC), which will be implemented by the Philhealth; and 20 percent for the DOH’s Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) and medical assistance program.
In 2018, Recto revealed that the total tax collections from alcohol, tobacco, and sugar-sweetened beverages was P242.8 billion.
“Thus, the combined DOH-PhilHealth 50 percent [share] should be P110.9 billion, net of other deductions. Following the 80-20 sharing, P88.72 billion should go to PhilHealth, and P22.18 billion to DOH-HFEP and medical assistance,” Recto said.
However, under the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, Philhealth was allocated with only P67.3 billion; while the DOH was only given P5.9 billion for its HFEP, and P9.4 billion for its Medical Assistance Program.
“Based on the 2020 budget, the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] owes these agencies a total of P28.3 billion from the sin tax collections,” Recto said in Filipino.
Recto recalled that the TRAIN Law “was sold on the seductive promise that taxes collected from sin products will be spent for health. That higher taxes on vice will be used to fund the virtues of health care.”
“The law was signed by President Duterte. Does he know that it is not being implemented properly?” Recto asked.
Congress, he said, should “rectify” this mistake of the government while deliberating on the national budget for next year.
Recto recalled that only last week, Health Secretary Francisco Duque appealed to senators for additional health funds, particularly for the implementation of the UHC.
The Philhealth said its P67-billion proposed 2020 budget is expected to cover only 30 million members, which is way below its 97 million beneficiaries.