Cayetano bats for higher sin tax on alcohol to discourage binge drinking

Published November 8, 2019, 3:06 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Pia Cayetano on Friday said imposing higher sin taxes would discourage binge drinking among Filipinos which she claimed has already reached alarming levels.

Senator Pia S. Cayetano (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Pia S. Cayetano (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

Cayetano, who chairs the Senate ways and means committee, made this assertion recently at the continuation of floor debates on Senate Bill No. 1074, the upper chamber’s version of the measure that seeks to raise excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and electronic cigarettes.

The proposed sin tax rates under the Senate’s version are higher than those approved by the House of Representatives and the rates proposed by the Finance Department.

The senator pointed out that binge drinking has emerged as a major problem not only among Filipinos but also around the world.

“Just to put on record, the WHO [World Health Organization] is very much concerned about alcohol drinking worldwide, and it is its policy to use taxation as part of a comprehensive package to address this concern,” Cayetano said.

She said more than half or 55.7 percent of adults in the country are binge drinkers or consuming large quantities of alcohol, citing the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) of the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).

“The harmful effects of binge drinking are catastrophic and are recognized globally. This is what we are trying to address through higher sin taxes,” Cayetano said in explaining the tax rates under the bill.

Also citing a recent article published in London-based magazine The Economist, Cayetano said alcohol already ranks first on the list of substances that are most harmful to people’s health and safety, the community, economy, and environment.

The said list even considers alcoholic beverages more dangerous than heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and tobacco.

“We need to ensure that the most dangerous products are not cheap. We cannot save lives by increasing the prices of sin products by a negligible amount,” she emphasized.

“We make this an effective measure when the price increase is substantial enough that people will think twice about the volume of products they purchase and consume,” she added.

Cayetano said comprehensive action is needed from the government to protect Filipinos from the health risks of alcohol, as it has done so for tobacco products.

“We may have done a good job on the detrimental effects of cigarettes, but we have not done equally so for alcohol. We have prohibitions on cigarettes, but we lag behind on alcohol. In other countries, they are even regulating advertisements on alcohol,” she noted.

Cayetano assured her colleagues that she is not using taxation in an isolated manner.

“As soon as this tax reform measure is passed, I will work more on the health issues and other prevention tools on alcohol, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes,” Cayetano said.