Press Statement – Action for Economic Reforms – May 10, 2012

For more than 15 years, the Philippines suffered from a fatally-flawed sin tax system for tobacco and alcohol products. The toll of these flaws has not only been in billions of pesos in foregone public revenues— they have been in millions of lives.

At least 300,000 Filipinos die every year from tobacco-related diseases. This is a number that exceeds casualties from any other epidemic that this country has ever had.

We remember what Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said on July 27, 2011: “It is high time that we restructure our tobacco and alcohol excise taxes.”

Perhaps now the time has come.

Yesterday, May 9, the Committee of Ways and Means at the House of Representatives achieved a feat that previous administrations deemed impossible, with a resounding 46-14 decision in favor of HB 5727— the bill which could finally reform the structure of our weak sin tax system.

We contend that if HB 5727 were to be finally signed into law in 2012, it will be a milestone in our country’s quest for health and inclusive development. It will shield the youth and the poor from our nation’s number one cause of death: smoking. It will help provide alternative livelihoods to tobacco farmers, while increasing the selling price for their produce. It will increase resources for local governments and congressional districts to better serve their constituents, fund the universal health care program, and significantly advance our country’s macroeconomic and fiscal standing.

Our 46 legislators who have voted for HB 5727 deserve to be commended for their historic deed. Let it be known to all that their vote has been a vote for the health, economic prosperity, and future of all Filipinos.

Those who have voted against the bill— Representatives Eric Singson, Jr., Danilo Suarez, Ma. Milagros Magsaysay, Rufus Rodriguez, Rodolfo Farinas, Magtanggol Gunigundo, Paolo Javier, Oscar Malapitan, Victor Ortega, Carlos Padilla, Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., Pastor Alcover, Ma. Amelita Calimbas-Villarosa, and Arnel Ty — have exposed their colors for all to see. They are defenders of a tax system that has done nothing to benefit and everything to cripple the overwhelming majority of our nation’s people.

The battle for reforming our sin taxes for tobacco and alcohol is still far from over. We look to the House Leadership, especially Speaker Belmonte, to ensure that HB 5727 will be approved by the entire Lower House by June 2012.

HB 5727 is a bill that is long overdue. We hope that the long wait is now over.

Pass HB 5727 now!