Press Release – Action for Economic Reforms – 2 October 2012

In a press conference in Quezon City, health and civil society advocates are pushing for the pending Senate committee report to reflect provisions that will effectively achieve the bill’s health objectives.

“We always say we support health, but now is the time that we show – with action – our support,” stated former DOH secretary Esperanza Cabral. “And one of the actions that our legislators can do is pass the ‘real’ sin tax.”

Cabral was referring to civil society’s concerns that the committee report on sin tax will be compromised in order to favor Big Tobacco.

Media has previously reported that Recto is leaning towards a minimum of 3 tiers for cigarettes and absurdly low tax rates that are similar to the tobacco industry’s proposals, thus rendering the health objective irrelevant.

“We don’t want a ‘token sin tax bill’ where legislators claim to have a sin tax bill but in actuality, favors the industry rather than health,” continued Cabral. “We want a bill that will put health first, decreases tobacco consumption in the youth and poor, and provides revenues that will fund not only tobacco-related diseases but other important diseases that cripple our country.”

Asserted Cabral: “Legislators should pass a ‘real’ sin tax bill that shows they serve the Filipino people, not the tobacco manufacturers.”

Dr. Maricar Limpin of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) emphasized, “We expect the Senate to vote for the people. We put you in office, thus you are at our service. You do not serve the tobacco industry.”

Limpin also expounded on the history of the sin tax bill in the country and highlighted the need for a unitary tax. “When the current sin tax bill was being debated upon in 2004, we were pushing for a unitary tax. Regardless of the price, it’s the same negative impact on health.”

She also dispelled claims that an ad valorem tax is preferable saying, “Before our current tax, we were using ad valorem. It was proven to be ineffective hence why we shifted to a specific tax.”

Dr. Tony Leachon, DOH consultant on non-communicable diseases, also stressed on the bill’s utmost importance and stated, “This bill is the most important bill that can be passed by our legislators this year.”

Senator Recto’s committee report is scheduled to be released on October 8.