Sin tax bill advocates to Recto: Stop being Senator to tobacco industry!
Press Release – Action for Economic Reforms – 6 October 2012

Advocates of the sin tax bill and members of civil society called on Senator Ralph Recto to stop being “a senator to the tobacco industry” and pass a “real” sin tax bill.

In a recent press conference, the advocates said they fear that a Senate committee report by Recto on the pending sin tax bill, reportedly set to be released on Oct. 8, will favor Big Tobacco rather than address concerns on the effects of smoking on public health.

“Show us that you [Recto] are a senator of Filipinos and not a senator of tobacco companies. Once you pass a sin tax bill not favorable to the Filipino people, then by 2016, I am sure you will not be elected to the Senate again,” Dr. Maricar Limpin, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP).

She also reminded Recto that he ran and lost in 2007 mainly because he helped push for the expanded value added tax (EVAT) which burdened consumers. But Recto won again in 2010. “That will not happen again… many votes now use their heads (when voting),” predicted Limpin.

For her part, former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral also reminded Recto that a “real” sin tax bill should not only address revenue generation but public health as well.

“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,” Cabral stressed. “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.”

Recto was quoted in media as saying he favors a three-tier tax system on cigarettes and low tax rates, which are similar to proposals from the tobacco industry. Limpin, Cabral and other advocates of the bill said these would still negate the objective of reducing cigarette consumption for the sake of public health.

“Legislators should pass a ‘real’ sin tax bill and show they serve the Filipino people and not the tobacco manufacturers,” Cabral added.

Dr. Tony Leachon, DOH consultant on non-communicable diseases, pointed out that while Recto accepts the argument that sin tax will reduce tobacco consumption and save more lives, the senator “ignores the sumptuary purpose of the sin tax policy as a health measure.”

He explained that in a three-tier tax system, cheap cigarettes would still be accessible to the youth and the poor that can lead to more deaths due to non-communicable diseases. Leachon added that low tax rates suggested by the tobacco industry would result in lower revenues and less money to be used for health care for the poor.

“This bill is the most important bill that can be passed by our legislators this year,” Leachon said.