THE proposed amendment to the Sin Tax Reform Act is a balancing act of Congress to continue the country’s tobacco farming industry and promote public health by curbing smoking and generate P14 billion additional annual revenue, the principal author of the measure said yesterday.
ABS party-list Rep. Eugene Michael de Vera, principal sponsor of House Bill (HB) No. 4144 and who hails from Sto. Domingo in Ilocos Sur, said imposing higher tax on cigarettes will help significantly drop the number of smokers in the country, adding his proposal seeks to provide the government of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte an additional P14 billion in annual revenue as a result of increased tax rates for both low-end and premium cigarette brands.
“Masama talaga ang paninigarilyo sa katawan kaya dapat talagang i-reduce at puwede nating buwisan iyan para magkaroon ng pondo sa pagpapatakbo ng gobyerno.
Kung matutuloy po ang aking panukala, may additional po tayong P14 billion a year kasi itataas po natin ang rates ng tax sa minor at major brands,” de Vera explained.
De Vera said his proposal will “further level the playing field in the cigarette industry and promote competition.”
Meanwhile, at least two senior Catholic Church leaders and a big tobacco farmers group, National Federation of Tobacco Farmers Association and Cooperatives (NAFTAC), have backed Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez’s decision urging the Senate to approve a proposed law to further raise sin taxes.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it [House Bill No. 4144] because it discourages smoking…. It’s okay because the poor will end up saving their money, instead of spending it on vices, such as cigarettes and alcohol,” former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President and Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said in his Veritas Patrol interview, branding the measure as pro-health.
“It is the government’s duty to protect the health of its citizens aside from raising revenues,” Cruz said, referring to House Bill (HB) No. 4144 which amends Republic Act (RA) No. 10351, also known as the Sin Tax Reform Act, that proposed higher excise tax rates for tobacco products.
Archbishop Emeritus Diosdado Talamayan of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao said Congress should ensure that the measure will pass the legislative mill and reach the President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s table for signature into law.
“The Northern region is a tobacco-rich province where many farmers depend on the crop to improve the lives of their families,” he said, adding the measure will not only protect the livelihood of local tobacco farmers, but keeps the young ones from smoking by imposing higher excise taxes.
Mario E. Cabasal, NAFTAC president, said the proposal is indeed a “true pro-farmers measure and pro-poor” as this champions their interests to preserve their livelihood.
“We support HB 4144 because it is the true pro-farmers measure. We had already voiced our position when the bill was being discussed in Congress and nothing has changed,” said Cabasal.
“I call on our members not to be influenced by the reports that are coming out regarding HB 4144. What will be good for the farmers is the measure that will ensure our continued survival. In our view, that is HB 4144,” said Cabasal, adding that a unitary tax rate will kill the local tobacco industry.
“A unitary tax rate will benefit only the premium cigarette brands, which are the foreign brands. They will just import higher quality tobacco leaves. This means we the local farmers who produce low grade tobacco will suffer the most,” said Cabasal.
“Locally produced tobacco leaves are mostly low grade. Our fear is that if a unitary tax rate is imposed, local production will be affected ,” Cabasal added.
The measure was approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading before Congress went on Christmas break last week, amending the Sin Tax Reform Act to further increase revenue collection of the Duterte administration, protect local tobacco farmers, and curb smoking among Filipinos.
It seeks to increase the cigarette tax rate to P32 for the cheaper brand and P36 per pack for high priced brand FROM the unitary P30 a pack.
Until the end of December 2016, the law sets the tax on cigarettes with a net retail price of P11.50 per pack at P25 per pack; while those higher than P11.50 will be taxed P29 per pack.
Since January 1, 2017, the two-tiers converged into a unitary tax rate of P30 per pack according to the law.(RPP)