Health advocates flood social media to oppose ‘measly’ P5 hike in tobacco tax in bicam

A diehard smoker takes a puff in InterAksyon file photo. Anti-tobacco groups are seeking a hike in the sin tax as part of the package of tax reforms pending in Congress.

MANILA – Health advocates have flooded the twitter and social media accounts of members of the bicameral committee deliberating on tax reform to oppose the increase of tobacco tax rate by a rate they deem measly – P5 pesos per pack, reportedly proposed by Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo.

“This is gross treachery on the part of the legislators. The Quimbo Morris proposal adopted House Bill 4144 that is still pending in the Senate. The senators rejected our appeal to include in the tax reform bill the proposals of Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Sen. JV Ejercito that are way better than the House Bill because they said it did not go through the committee hearing. And now this?” Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Philippines asked in dismay.

Limpin appealed to the senator members of the bicameral committee to keep their promise to the advocates that they will discuss it in the Senate in January.

“The pro-tobacco legislators will suffer the consequences of adopting the proposal of Rep. Quimbo. We will expose them to voters as responsible for the initiation of 200,000 youth to smoking. These additional new smokers will result in additional 2,000 deaths per year to the current deaths of 150,000 from tobacco-related diseases. They will have blood on their hands,” said Rio Dayao, Vice President for Liaison of University of the Philippines Economics Towards Consciousness (ETC).

During the deliberation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), the health advocates requested Sen. Sonny Angara, ways and means committee chair, to include the increase in tobacco tax in the Package One of TRAIN. He rejected this, arguing it has not gone through the committee deliberation and forcing its inclusion will delay the TRAIN’s passage.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao filed Senate Bill 1599, proposing to increase the current tobacco tax rate of P30 per pack to P60 in 2018 and 5 percent per year thereafter. Sen. JV Ejercito filed Senate Bill 1605 that will increase the tax on cigarettes to P90 in 2018 followed by 9 percent increase per year after the first year.

“The Quimbo Morris proposal will preempt the Senate bills and we hope that the senators in the bicameral committee. We appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to intervene and prevent the legislators’ bias for the tobacco lobby at the expense of our young children,” said Limpin.