Press release – Action for Economic Reforms – 15 November 2012

It was a sea of white as more than 20 medical organizations gathered in the Philippine General Hospital and called on the Senate to stop delaying the passage of the life-saving sin tax reform bill

In a statement, the health doctors said, “The sin tax reform is about preventing deaths and saving lives. It will prevent 70,000 deaths a year and pay for healthcare of 30 million of our poorest.”

The statement went on to say: “Vested interests have rallied against the bill in the halls of the Senate, and those who have sworn to defend us have forgotten their obligation to protect the health of 90 million Filipinos, including tobacco farmers and workers.”

A website campaigning for the bill’s passage called “Bawas Bisyo Bill” was unveiled and a section of it entitled “Senate Watch” classified senators on where they stand on the measure.

The statement of the health community continued, “When we exercise our right to vote, we will remember those politicians who promoted deadly products, defended the interests of the companies, and allowed our fellow Filipinos to die.”

“The more they delay its passage, the more lives are lost,” they added.

Dr. Antonio Dans from the UP College of Medicine echoed his colleagues’ sentiments on the bill’s urgency, saying, “We will never have another opportunity to save 50,000 lives in one felt swoop by passing the sin tax bill.”

“The mark of civilized society is the ability to pay for healthcare regardless of the ability to pay of individuals,” declared Dans. “We cannot call ourselves a civilized society if we leave people to die because they are unable to pay for healthcare.”

“We understand that they are protecting their constituents from Batangas, Ilocos and other tobacco-producing regions. But aren’t we their constituents, too? What about the smokers who suffer from these diseases? Aren’t they constituents as well?” He lamented.

Senators Franklin Drilon and Pia Cayetano were also present as champions for health.

Drilon remarked that his work as Acting Chair of the Committee of Ways and Means was the “most difficult work in an acting capacity” he has ever encountered in his time in the Senate and added, “But I am willing to do the hard work and willing to do the fight because this is the good fight.”

Drilon said that voting for the bill was scheduled on Monday and promised, “Let me assure everyone that I will resist any effort to reduce the taxes on cigarettes.”

He added that by putting taxes beyond the reach of the poor and the youth, it was the “most effective way we can save lives.”

For her part, Cayetano expressed her full support for Drilon’s proposed measure.

The medical associations that backed the sin tax bill included: UP Manila, UP PGH, UP College of Medicine, Philippine Medical Association, Philippine College of Physicians, Philippine College of Chest Physicians, Philippine Heart Association, Philippine Society of Hypertension, Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine, Philippine Society of Head and Neck Surgery, Philippine Neurological Association, Philippine Obstetrics and Gynecology, Philippine Pediatric Society,  Philippine Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society, Philippine Society of Gastroenterology, Philippine Society of Oncology, Stroke Society of the Philippines, Academy of Physicians, Philippine Society of Clinical & Occupational Therapy, Philippine Society of Hematology & Blood Transfusion, and the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges Foundation, Inc.

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