By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Pia Cayetano on Tuesday welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to certify as urgent the Senate’s version of the measure raising the tax on alcohol and cigarettes, including e-cigarettes.
“I have always known that the President and I are aligned when it comes to regulating cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and alcohol products,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“But this certification is much appreciated because it sends a message to all the members of the Senate that this is a priority measure,” she said of Senate Bill No. 1074.
The senator said she firmly believes that “a vote for sin tax is a vote for people’s health.” “A vote for sin tax is a vote for our people’s health and well-being,” she noted.
On Nov. 12, the President informed Senate President Vicente Sotto III he is certifying the immediate enactment of Senate Bill No. 1074 “to address the urgent need to generate additional revenue to support the effective implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act and to further protect the right to health of the people.”
Cayetano is the primary sponsor of the bill which primarily seeks to increase excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes, including heated tobacco products (HTPs) and vapes.
Though the measure is still in the period of interpellation, Cayetano said she is hopeful that her fellow senators would, likewise, welcome the urgency of passing higher sin taxes to protect the right to health of Filipinos.
“I am pushing for a version that recommends higher tax rates than those approved by the House of Representatives for two reasons: first, it will provide proper funding for the delivery of health services to all Filipinos; and second, it will effectively reduce the consumption of sin products,” the senator said.
“There is a need to increase sin taxes substantially for it to have any health impact. Otherwise, we will fall short at meeting our health objectives,” she added.
Cayetano reiterated that the government can’t save lives by increasing the price of a sin product by a negligible amount.
“We can only make this an effective measure when the price increase is substantial enough that people would think twice on the volume of the products they will purchase and consume,” Cayetano said.
Based on the Department of Finance (DOF) estimate, Cayetano’s proposed rates would help the government generate P47.9-billion for UHC next year and a total of P356.9-billion for the program in the next five years.