Press release – Action for Economic Reforms – 16 November 2012

Vicente Fabe, chairman of Pakisama, an organization with a nationwide membership of 65, 000 farmers, said that the farmers support the sin tax bill sponsored by Senators Frank Drilon and Miriam Santiago.

Fabe said that the farmers will benefit from the sin taxes.  He said that the “financing for universal health care to be sourced from the sin tax will principally go to the poorest, who are mainly farmers and their families.”

According to Fabe, the tobacco farmers in the North, including those belonging to Pakisama, are not threatened by the reduction of smoking and the drop in tobacco production.

Fabe said that many of the farmers have in fact shifted to other crops because over the years, the “earnings from tobacco cultivation have decreased.”  He added that if there was an increase in the price of tobacco leaf, this was because of the export demand, not because of local consumption.

Jo-ann Latuja of Action for Economic Reforms, confirmed what Mr. Fabe said: “Close to 80 percent of tobacco production is geared towards the export market. Hence, the threat that the tobacco farmers will suffer is an exaggerated one.”

Mr. Fabe was also happy that 15 percent of the additional revenues from the tobacco taxes will be directly allocated to the tobacco farmers. In the past, said Fabe, the tobacco farmers in the North did not benefit from the billions of earmarked funds.  He said that he was optimistic that the transparency being promoted by Budget Secretary Butch Abad will result in the equitable and effective use of the earmarked funds for the alternative livelihood of farmers.

Mr. Fabe, who has been chairman of Pakisama for the last three years, also said that Pakisama will vote for the senators who will support the sin tax reform.  “Our organization has a total membership of 65,000 farmers; about 2500 farmers and families of them are in the tobacco-growing provinces in the North.”

Kukumbinsihin ko rin ang ibang grupong magsasaka na suportahan ang mga senador na sumasang-ayon sa sin tax. [I will convince other farmer organizations to support the senators who favor the sin tax.]” He said.

Quoting the Pakisama members in the North, he said, “The farmer organizations that oppose the sin tax are actually being exploited by politicians.  It is the traditional politicians who have close connections with Philip Morris, not the tobacco farmers.”