The ghost conquistador and the specter of smuggling

Recently, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial titled Taxing vices (27 August 2011) made this conclusion: “So whether it is to raise taxes or curb vices, this is one piece of legislation that merits serious consideration by Congress. And the time to enact it is now during the current session, when our lawmakers are still not too preoccupied with ensuring their reelection.”

A week earlier (19 August 2011), Inquirer columnist Raul Pangalangan explained through his essay the essential features of the sin tax reform, namely the indexation of the specific tax to inflation, the adoption of a simplified unitary tax, and the removal of the discriminatory price freeze classification for certain tobacco products, where tax rates are pegged at 1996 prices. The Inquirer editorial cited above also discussed these attributes. Professor Pangalangan extends his work to tackle the “legal sophistication of the tobacco industry.”

The Pangalangan piece was an effective one, if we go by Mao’s statement that to be attacked by the enemy is a good thing. Someone rejoined, through a letter to the editor, which the Inquirer published.

No New Taxes Yet (Part 2)

The biggest resistance to sin taxes comes from the tobacco industry. The title of a paper co-authored by K. Alechnowicz and S. Chapman (2004), which came out in the international peer-reviewed journal Tobacco Control, says it all: The Philippine tobacco industry: “the strongest tobacco lobby in Asia.”

The Alechnowicz and Chapman paper documented “revelations from internal tobacco industry documents about the conduct of the industry in the Philippines since the 1960s.” Political corruption was among the areas explored.

“No new taxes yet.” (Part 1)

“Aquino: No new taxes yet.” This was the BusinessMirror’s headline on 27 June 2011.

How should the statement of President Noy Aquino be interpreted? Should we—those who support an increase in taxes—be dismayed over the statement?

Of course, for vested interests—e.g., the manufacturers of sin (alcohol and tobacco) products—the statement is welcome news. They will emphasize the phrase “no new taxes.”

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