For the past months, the Department of Health and the Department of Finance, have been actively advocating for increased taxes on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages to curb consumption and ultimately reduce the incidents of illness caused by alcohol and tobacco. With health partners from civil societies, we hope that these reforms pass into legislation before the end of the 17th Congress.
The proposal to increase the tax rate of cigarettes to at least 3 pesos per stick or 60 pesos per pack was certified urgent by President Duterte. This is the rate that will allow the Philippines to achieve its Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) Target to reduce smoking prevalence to 15% by 2022. Any rate lower than PhP 60.00 will put an unacceptable number of Filipinos at risk of dying to tobacco related diseases and will result to 200,000 new smokers for every year of delay in implementation.
“The Department of Health would like to emphasize, that Sin Taxes are first and foremost, a health measure that will discourage Filipinos to smoke and excessively consume alcohol. As global evidence suggests, taxation is the single, most cost-effective measure to safeguard the public from the harms of tobacco and alcohol use and their accompanying societal costs”, Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
A secondary benefit of such legislation is making funds available for programs that benefit the underserved. RA 10351 or the Sin Tax Law of 2012 earmarked 85% of revenues to health and 15% to tobacco producing regions. Based on the latest projections, the UHC Act will require a total of 257 billion in the first year only, assuming reforms are spread out over a 10-year period. The lack of sufficient and sustained funding will hamper the full implementation of the UHC Law. Moreover, shortening the reform period to deliver benefits to the Filipino people sooner, will require funds to be generated immediately.
“Sin tax saves lives, promotes inclusiveness, and is a protective health policy reform that will enable us to build a healthier nation. I am grateful to our colleagues at the Department of Finance, our health partners, and our champion legislators for upholding this cause with us. We very much hope for the passage of this legislation, especially now that the UHC Act has been signed into law.” The Secretary of Health is positive that the resulting policy decision puts primacy to health, above anything else.