WATCH | Pacquiao has a new belt: ‘Anti-Smoking Champion’

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MANILA – (UPDATE, 9:05PM) Senator Manny Pacquiao wants a higher tax on tobacco not only to collect more revenues but, above all, to protect the people’s health.

Saying, “The human body is sacred. We should not destroy or desecrate it,” the global boxing icon and fitness buff recently filed Senate Bill 1599, seeking to further increase the excise tax on tobacco products.

Once the bill is approved, the current cigarette tax rate of P30 per pack will increase to P60 per pack. This is aside from the annual increase of 9% from the current 4% increase in excise tax per year.

In explaining his advocacy, Pacquiao quoted 1 Corinthians 3:16-17: “Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

His office pointed out that the implementation of the Sin Tax Reform Act (RA 10351) has been proven effective in minimizing if not totally stopping the smoking habit and in raising funds for public health.

RA 10351 was passed in 2012 primarily to curb cigarette and alcohol addiction, as well as to raise government funds for the implementation of Universal Health Care (UHC).

The senator from Mindanao had asked Sen. Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, to include Senate Bill 1599 in the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN).

The boxer-lawmaker has earned the admiration of youths and health advocates for taking the lead in passing a measure increasing tax for tobacco products, and on Tuesday (Oct. 10), he received recognition from an alliance of anti-tobacco and health advocacy groups.

The Youth for Sin Tax and the Sin Tax Coalition gifted him with an “Anti-smoking Champion” belt as they paid him a call at his Senate office.

The Sin Tax Coalition is composed of these medical associations: Philippine Medical Association, Philippine College of Surgeons and Philippine College of Physicians.

Explaining the significance of his proposed measure, Pacquiao said, “napakalaking bagay itong bill na ito dahil it will help to stop smoking in our country. If we don’t file this bill or pass this bill, every year maraming magkakasakit [a lot more people will get sick].”

Per estimates, he said, that could mean a million more Filipinos.

According to the coalition, there has been a substantial decline in the number of smokers in the country since the sin tax law of 2012 was enacted, but the impact of the 2012 law is expected to wane and the number of smokers could rise anew.

“Ang gusto ni Senator Pacquiao na ikinatutuwa namin na 100% increase in 2018, so do-doble yung tax. Tapos 9% per year after that. Ang ibababa nun, hindi lang 1 million less smokers — almost 2 million less smokers by 2022,” said Sin Tax Coalition convenor Dr. Antonio Dans.

Before the sin tax law of 2012 was enacted, there were an estimated 17 million Filipino smokers. This has since gone down to 13.5 million. However, said Dans, there’s no room for slack. He explained: over time, people adjust to the higher tobacco prices; besides, the economy improves so people have a greater capacity to adjust to price hikes.

So nakita namin sa national survey na nawawala na yung effect ng 2012 sin tax law at mula this year, hindi na pababa ang dami ng naninigarilyo, parami na [We’ve seen from the national survey that the effects of the 2012 sin tax law have diminished so starting this year, the number of smokers won’t decline; they’ll increase.”

Pacquiao for his part said that besides the health divided, the revenue impact for government is huge: some P50 billion in additional revenue would be added to the estimated P110 billion that the government is earning from the sin tax law.

Cigarette smoking has been linked to several chronic health problems like obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, hypertension and heart ailment, among others.