Pia welcomes President’s certification of sin tax bill (SB 1074) as urgent

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s certification of the Senate’s version of the sin tax bill as urgent.
“I have always known that the President and I are aligned when it comes to regulating cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and alcohol products. But this certification is much appreciated because it sends a message to all the members of the Senate that this is a priority measure,” the senator said.
Issued on Tuesday, November 12, the certification signed by President Rodrigo Duterte cited the urgent need to pass SB 1074 to generate additional revenue to support the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.
Cayetano is the sponsor of Senate Bill (SB) No. 1074, which seeks to increase excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes, including heated tobacco products (HTPs) and vapes. The measure is currently in the period of interpellations.
Cayetano is hopeful that her fellow senators would likewise welcome the urgency of passing higher sin taxes to protect the right to health of Filipinos.
“A vote for sin tax is a vote for our people’s health and wellbeing,” she noted, while adding that she remains committed to respond to her colleagues’ concerns on SB 1074.
Certification of SB 1074 as urgent by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
“I am pushing for a version that recommends higher tax rates than those approved by the House of Representatives for two reasons: first, it will provide proper funding for the delivery of health services to all Filipinos; and second, it will effectively reduce the consumption of sin products,” the senator said.
“There is a need to increase sin taxes substantially for it to have any health impact. Otherwise, we will fall short at meeting our health objectives,” she added.
“We cannot save lives by increasing the price of a sin product by a negligible amount. We can only make this an effective measure when the price increase is substantial enough that people would think twice on the volume of the products they will purchase and consume,” Cayetano concluded.
The Department of Finance (DOF) estimates that Cayetano’s proposed rates would generate P47.9 billion for UHC next year, and a total of P356.9 billion for the program over the next five years. #
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Pia S. Cayetano shows samples of alcopops to fellow senators during her sponsorship speech on Senate Bill No. 1074.

Pia: Higher sin taxes to make alcohol less accessible to the youth

One of the primary objectives of increasing sin taxes is to make alcoholic beverages less accessible to the country’s youth, Senator Pia S. Cayetano said on Tuesday (November 5).

The chairperson of the Senate Ways and Means Committee stressed this point at the resumption of plenary debates on Senate Bill No. 1074, which seeks to raise the excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and e-cigarettes, including heated tobacco products and vapes.

Responding to the interpellation of Senator Manny Pacquiao, a co-author of SB 1074, Cayetano noted, “What we want to achieve is [to significantly raise alcohol prices] so that these are not so accessible to the most vulnerable: the children and youth.”

“Hindi po tayo naniniwala na kailangan affordable ang alak sa ating mga kabataan. For example, sa isang bote ng gin, ang karagdagang presyo lang dito ay P2.00 per shot [under SB 1074]. Nasa P6.00 ang isang shot [based on the current price of gin],” she explained.

Cayetano also defended the tax rates proposed under SB 1074, which are notably higher than the rates approved by the House of Representatives and those recommended by the Department of Finance (DOF).

“What I have proposed is a rate that is higher than that passed in the House of Representatives. In fact, it is also higher than that initially showed to me by DOF. But both the DOF and DOH [Department of Health] now support my version,” she said.

The senator explained that, even with the P47.9 billion additional revenues that can be generated under her proposal, there would still be an P11.8 billion gap in the funding for government’s Universal Health Care (UHC) program.

Even if this gap is bridged, she said the UHC would only be able to deliver bare minimum services because of the program’s huge funding requirement. As such, she said any additional health revenue should be welcomed to grant Filipinos better access to basic and specialized health services.

“Kailangan lang natin bumisita sa isang healthcare center para maintindihan natin na malayo pa ang patutunguhan natin… Yung mga nakikita nating mga ospital na dilapidated, hindi pa lahat ora-orada magagawa,” Cayetano pointed out.

“Items like catastrophic illnesses, including cancer, hindi pa po covered ng mga packages natin sa UHC. In fairness to DOH and PhilHealth, every year they are increasing and improving their packages. But that is the nature of the problems they face because of the lack of funding… And because we are a country with more than 7,000 islands, it’s going to be very difficult to readily provide the kind of health care we dream of,” she added.

Meanwhile, Cayetano clarified that taxation alone cannot address the country’s problems on alcoholism and cigarette addiction, stressing that it is just part of a more comprehensive plan to protect Filipinos’ health and wellbeing.

“Taxation is not meant to be used as a lone preventive tool, but should be [implemented] along with other measures including education campaigns and advocacies,” she said. #

Cayetano: Even with P47.9 billion additional revenues from SB 1074, there would still be an P11.8 billion gap in the funding for government’s Universal Health Care program.

Pia gears up for daily debates on Sin Tax

“Sin tax reform is not just about numbers. It’s really about changing lives. And the work that we do will pave the way for a safer future for our children.”

Thus said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Pia S. Cayetano, as she prepares to defend her proposed tax rates under Senate Bill (SB) No. 1074, which seeks to raise excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and electronic cigarettes, including heated tobacco products and vapes.

The Senate is set to resume floor debates on the tax reform measure on Tuesday (November 5).

“I am ready and I will make myself available every day in my effort to get this bill approved as soon as possible,” according to Cayetano.

“I would really like to address the concerns of my colleagues about sin tax. We hope to put on record a very interesting discussion,” she added.

The senator said she is prepared to present all the data to back her proposed tax rate hikes under SB 1074. “I understand that those from the industries and even some of our colleagues find the rates that we are proposing on a high end, but we stand by those rates.”

Cayetano said the chances of the tax reform measure being approved in the Senate this year are high. She clarified, however, that fellow senators would be given sufficient time to raise their concerns during the plenary debates.

“As long as there is enough time for my fellow senators to prepare their questions, it’s a reasonable expectation [that the bill will get approved]. We really give each other enough time to ask those questions. So I am making myself available in the next few months for interpellation.”

The Department of Finance (DOF) has estimated that SB 1074 would generate P47.9 billion for the Universal Health Care (UHC) program next year, and a total of P356.9 billion for the program over the next five years.

The senator particularly stressed the need to increase the country’s tax rates on alcohol, citing that the Philippines has among the lowest prices of beers, hard liquors, and wines in the ASEAN region.

“Ang baba ng presyo ng ating mga alak kumpara sa ibang bansa sa ASEAN. Kaya talagang panahon na po na taasan natin ito,” she stressed.

The Philippines has the third lowest price of a 330-ml beer in the entire region, next to Vietnam and Cambodia. It also has the second lowest prices of a 700-ml bottle of gin and a 750-ml bottle of wine in ASEAN, next to Vietnam and Brunei, respectively.

“If we want to make taxation an integral part of our comprehensive [health] package, then it should be a meaningful kind of taxation. I will never be comfortable with proposing a measure just for the sake of it,” Cayetano asserted.

Meanwhile, the senator acknowledged growing public support for higher sin tax rates.

At the resumption of session on Monday (November 4), doctors, youth and civil society groups held a mobilization and press conference in the Senate to express support for Cayetano and urge other senators to approve SB 1074.

“I feel it’s very important that you continue your advocacy on the ground. We will do our part, but in the community level, your work is truly vital. We’re very happy that there are young people who are also taking the initiative to support our proposal,” Cayetano told the coalition members.

She said the ultimate goal of Sin Tax is to reduce deaths, sickness, and other hazards caused by excessive drinking, as well as to address social problems linked to alcoholism like domestic violence, crimes against women, and road accidents resulting from drunk driving.

Moreover, she said the measure seeks to protect Filipinos, especially the youth, from the dangers of vaping. #

Senator Pia Cayetano gives updates on SB 1074 before members of the Sin Tax Coalition at a press conference held in the Senate.

More than revenues, Sin Tax is about changing lives – Pia

*Statement of Senate Ways and Means Chair Pia Cayetano at the Sin Tax Coalition press conference (November 4, 2019). 

Good afternoon, everyone. I am happy to see all of you, and I am very grateful for everyone’s support.

The job of seeing through, shepherding the sin tax is an exciting journey. It’s actually more exciting than I expected. And that’s because of all the support that many of you have shown.

I always visualize it as like a numbers job. But actually, from the day I started, because of the passion and commitment that I’ve seen in so many of you, from the Department of Finance, Department of Health, the advocates, and all the supporters, it’s really not about numbers. It’s really about lives, it’s about personal stories, it’s about changing lives. And the work that we do will really pave the way for a safer future for our children.

During the last few weeks, we had no session. So I took the opportunity to visit the experts in WHO in Geneva, I also spoke to the Ministry of Health in Denmark, the Ministry of Health in the UK, and I also met with the Public Health England Group, who were actually proponents of e-cigs.

So I’d like to believe that from knowing nothing about e-cigarettes, little by little, I am gaining more knowledge. I don’t believe anyone is born an expert, but over a period of time, we can all develop this kind of expertise and so, I will never claim to be able to handle this on my own, but at least I’d be able to contribute to the discussions among the experts. So I’d be happy to share my knowledge in the days to come.

Suffice it to say, the team of experts that we have in the Philippines provided me with all the information that I needed. I cannot really say I have learned anything new and earthshaking. It simply reinforced the information that I already had. And it’s good to know because I believe that my job is always to keep an open mind. If 10 years from now, it turns out a product that started as an e-cigarette mutated into something that is very safe, that has no detrimental effect, or addictive effect, I believe I should have an open mind in exploring what that product will be in the future.

So I continue to sit at this job with that kind of an open mind, but with the commitment that number one, this is a joint effort between the Department of Finance and Department of Health. And I am conscious of the need to balance the effects of taxation and our interest as healthcare advocates.

I always take the opportunity to say that I have no degree or training in health care. My training or background is [I’m] a graduate of economics and law. But on that note, I’ve spent more than 10 years of my life working with doctors and health professionals with my own advocacy on health care. So, I used that background when I entered this Committee on Ways and Means and continue to find that sweet spot, that balance.

I understand that those from the industries and even some of our colleagues find the rates that we are proposing on a high end, but we stand by those rates. And I am very happy that the Secretary of Finance has supported the rates that I came up with along with the team headed by Usec. Karl Chua.

I stand by this because I tend to always look at what’s happening around us globally. And I will never compare… I’d like to be as reasonable as possible. And I am always mindful that we cannot do what certain developed countries are doing. So when I compare, I look at neighboring countries, and I look at the region, and I see that despite the rates that we were looking at, which was already an increase, we still have one of the lowest taxation rates in the region.

Then I said, it’s our moral duty to make taxation an integral part of this comprehensive package. Because otherwise, sorry to put it this way, but parang naglolokohan lang tayo. If we want taxation to be part of a comprehensive package, then it should be a meaningful kind of taxation. Not the kind of taxation na, “sige na para lang masabing meron.”

I’ve never worked that way and will never be comfortable proposing a measure just for the sake of it. So at the start of session, I am starting it excited and I would really like to address the concerns of my colleagues. I have been talking to them on the side during session, during the breaks. I am looking forward to them putting on record their concerns about sin tax and addressing it. I think today, we’re going to start with Senator [Francis] Tolentino. He actually was with me in our WHO conference, so we hope to put on record a very exciting discussion.

So again, thank you very much to everyone. #

Pass Sin Tax for people’s health: Doctors supporting higher excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes present a giant prescription calling for the passage of the Sin Tax bill to Senate Ways and Means Chair Pia S. Cayetano. Proceeds from the measure will augment funding for the government’s Universal Health Care program. (Senate PRIB / Joseph Vidal)
Senate Ways and Means Chair Pia Cayetano holds up a ‘tomb stone’ showing the health hazards of alcohol consumption at the Sin Tax Coalition press conference held at the Senate on Monday.

 

 

Tito Nene fought for things we take for granted today

Eulogy of Senator Pia S. Cayetano for the late Senate President Aquilino ‘Nene’ Q. Pimentel, Jr. (October 23, 2019, Senate Plenary)

Tita Bing, Koko, Gwen, and the rest of the Pimentel family. SP, Tita Helen. President Erap, colleagues and friends of Tito Nene.

 

I have grappled since Sunday morning to find the right words to honor Tito Nene. In a matter of hours, the news reported out the loss of a leader of a generation that fought for democracy, the father of the Local Government Code, the original proponent of federalism.

 

Tito Nene did grand things. There’s no doubt about that. But for me and those who knew him well, we will remember him for the small things. For what is greatness without kindness? Without humility? Without compassion? Traits I saw in my seatmate and mentor for many years.  Whatever he fought for on the floor, I saw it up close. Beyond the brilliant legislator and defender of democracy that he was, I got to know the kind and gentle person who was a loving husband to Tita Bing and father to their children. His kindness extended to me. I felt like I had a father who was looking after me and guiding me.

 

In the middle of my first term, there was a change in leadership and I became a member of the minority. And that’s when Tito Nene became my seatmate. I would often consult him. He always took time to provide me with his feedback. But more than that, he always encouraged me and  commended me for the work I was doing. Thinking about him while writing this, I am reminded of how generous he was with praise and how slow he was to criticize.

 

In a world where trading barbs and sometimes the use of foul language can be the norm, I cannot even recall Tito Nene saying an unkind word about someone. Don’t get me wrong, he was quick to stand up and register his opposition to something he was against, but always in a professional manner. In fact, the image I have in my mind is him in a huddle or someone approaching him and him saying, “Sige na, okay na.”

 

During the session breaks, Tito Nene attended conferences abroad. He would then deliver a privilege speech detailing his trip. He told me I should do the same. Thus, I adopted the habit of documenting and reporting out on the floor the meetings and conferences I attended abroad, just like him.

 

Tito Nene also was constantly writing and editing his papers and books. When I asked him how he keeps track of all the details, he told  me to record everything that happens in a day because one day the information will be useful. Just a name, just a place, and from there it will help you remember more details. I do that now too.

 

Tito Nene and I were both very active in the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the oldest and largest organization of members of parliaments from all over the world. In 2010, I was ending my term as Vice President for what is now known as the IPU’s Women Bureau. I had the opportunity to run for higher office but I hesitated because of the workload. I went to him to basically inform him that I wasn’t going to pursue it. He said, “Sige na, kunin mo na. It will be a great honor for the country.” I trusted him completely, and then and there, I changed my mind. I ran and won and became the first Asian President of IPU’s Women Bureau.

 

During the many conferences we attended together, I also became close to Tita Bing who was his constant companion. Over the years, I heard the stories of what they went through as a family, how Tita Bing held them together during the difficult times while Tito Nene was fighting for the causes he believed in. When I got to know Tito Nene and Tita Bing, it was much more quiet times. Tita Bing was always there. And it’s true, beside every great man is a great woman.

 

Yesterday, when I paid my respects, ito na po ‘yung nakakatawa, hindi na po ako iiyak sa part na ito. Yesterday, when I paid my respects, I sat by Tita Bing and I said I was at a loss on what to say because many of my stories about Tito Nene were very personal. Stories I would tell his family but was not very comfortable sharing in a eulogy.

 

Tita Bing asked me, “Like what? Tell me.” And I said well, one day out of the blue, Tito Nene said to me, “Pia, I don’t do this, it’s not my thing, but you deserve to be happy and have a good man.”

 

Tita Bing burst out laughing and said, “Totoo ‘yan. Ikuwento mo yan para they will know that side of your Tito Nene.” So there. Kwinento ko na po. I’m including that part of Tito Nene. He proceeded to introduce me to someone, the outcome of which I will leave to your speculation because it will remain forever a Pimentel and Cayetano family secret. Of course my dear sister Gwen knows all about this, but I was surprised that even Koko knew and he was laughing last night recounting his version of the story.

 

One last story, the late Joker Arroyo who was also my seatmate after Tito Nene retired, sat behind me and Tito Nene.  True to his name, Joker often ribbed Tito Nene saying that he could not understand what was Nene’s obsession with the poor and his fight for democracy. According to Joker, Nene was an unico hijo and a brilliant lawyer who did not have to bother fighting on the streets. Tito Nene would just laugh heartily. Kilala na niya si Joker. They go back a long time. They were comrades in the parliament of the streets. But it’s true, Tito Nene used his best days fighting for things we take for granted today.

 

I hope my contributions add to your appreciation of the Honorable Nene Pimentel, who was great in the big ways and marvelous in the small ways that made him human and beloved to those of us whose lives he touched.

 

I’ll end with this… The Senate staff would know that we were still in the building because my pink water bottle and his cup of pencils and pens would still be on our table. I have since upgraded my water bottle to a bamboo tumbler. He has turned in his cup for one that flows eternally.

 

When I saw Tita Bing last night, she said to me, “Love ka nun.” Tita Bing, love ko din siya. #

The remains of the late Senate President Aquilino ‘Nene’ Q. Pimentel Jr. arrives at the Senate of the Philippines.
Senators led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III stood in front of the Senate Building as honor guards carry the casket of former Senate President Nene Pimentel.
Senator Pia S. Cayetano: “Tito Nene used his best days fighting for things we take for granted today.”
Senators present Senate Resolution No.168 honoring the late Senate President to the Pimentel family.

Pia: PH vision should ensure care for people’s eyesight

To fulfill the vision of a sustainable future for all Filipinos, the government should work on ensuring quality and accessible eye care services for citizens that will help them achieve brighter and healthier lives.

 

Thus said Senator Pia S. Cayetano in light of the celebration of World Sight Day (October 10). Held every second Thursday of October, the event seeks to draw global attention to blindness and vision impairment with the goal of preventing them.

 

A known health advocate, Cayetano stressed the need to protect the eyesight of all Filipinos – from young children to senior citizens. She added that poor vision and avoidable blindness remain an underreported public health issue in the country.

 

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) in 2017 showed that more than two million people nationwide were blind or suffering from poor vision, with an estimated 332,150 Filipinos bilaterally blind, and 2.179 million with bilateral low vision.

 

The senator, for her part, stressed that the passage of a new law establishing a national vision screening program for kindergarten pupils could help turn the situation around.

 

It was Cayetano who authored and sponsored Republic Act 11358, or the ‘National Vision Screening Act,’ which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year.

 

The new law seeks to establish a National Vision Screening Program (NVSP) for young pupils under the Department of Education (DepEd).

 

The senator said early detection of eye problems is crucial in ensuring immediate intervention and proper treatment for children suffering from early vision impairments.

 

“Ensuring the full well-being of our children is the first step to enable them to reach their full potential and grow up as our partners in attaining sustainable growth and development,”  she said.

 

Moreover, the law also paves the way for the fulfillment of our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), added Cayetano, who chairs the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.

 

Goal 3 of the United Nations’ SDGs calls on nations to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. This includes the provision of essential services based on tracer interventions like vision screening.

 

In 2016, Cayetano partnered with the Taguig city government and the University of the Philippines-Manila Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI) to spearhead a pilot vision screening test for kindergarten pupils in the city.

 

150 pupils aged five to six underwent a simple vision-screening test, about 15 of whom were found to have vision problems, and in turn, given immediate and proper treatment. #

Pia vows to increase funding for ‘Last Mile’ Schools

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has vowed to increase from P1.5 billion to P15 billion the funding allocation for the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Last Mile Schools (LMS) Program in next year’s proposed P4.1-trillion national government budget. 

Cayetano, the Senate Finance Committee vice chair, said the tenfold increase will benefit 830 Last Mile Schools located in far-flung and hinterland communities across the country.

“I have personally visited some of these schools whenever I would hike or bike to upland communities, particularly in the Cordillera Administrative Region,” she shared. 

A mountain biker and hiking enthusiast, Cayetano regularly visits upland schools in the north to bring learning materials and conduct fitness and football clinics for students. 

She said that LMS usually have multi-grade level classrooms due to the limited number of classrooms accommodating the communities’ entire student population from different grade levels. 

“Multi-grade level classrooms are actually an acceptable education model. My children grew up in this kind of setting. What is important is that the teachers are well-trained to handle multi-grade level classrooms and that the class sizes remain small,” Cayetano explained.

She said the core of DepEd’s LMS Program is ensuring that the schools’ classrooms are made of sturdy material and equipped with the proper learning facilities, including computers that have access to programs complementing the classroom teaching, and electricity. 

The DepEd had originally asked for a P21.52 billion budget for its LMS program for next year, but only P1.5 billion was approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), based on the 2020 National Expenditure Program. 

A memorandum issued by the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Finance and Administration last August, however, directed the DBM to include and prioritize the “Last Mile Schools Fund” as a new line item under DepEd’s budget in the 2020 NEP.

“We should not forget about the Filipino families in far-flung areas who also want the best future for their children,” she stressed. “This is one of my ways to ensure that in our shared goal of fostering growth through education, no Filipino child will get left behind.”

“I also hope more senators would be willing to go the extra mile to help our last mile schools, and by actively supporting tax reforms, whose proceeds will help fund social services and our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” added Cayetano, who also chairs the Senate Committees on Ways and Means and on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. 

As of September 1, there are about 9,225 schools identified as LMS, with CAR (1,223), Western Visayas (824) and Eastern Visayas (1,076) having the most number – excluding the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

According to DepEd, most LMS are more than an hour away from the town center, in places with problems in peace and order, and which private contractors, suppliers and service providers find difficult to access. 

LMS have multi-grade level classes, with less than five teachers, and a student population of less than 100, more than 75% of which are usually indigenous people. They have very limited facilities, which had never been repaired in the last four years. #


Senator Pia S. Cayetano visits students at Lamut Elementary School in La Trinidad, Benguet during her annual trek to far-flung communities in the province. (2014)


Senator Pia S. Cayetano is joined by the UP Women’s Football Team (UPWFT) during her annual trek to far-flung communities in Benguet. In 2018, the senator and the student-athletes handed out books, toys, and other learning materials to students studying at the Lusod Community School in Itogon, Benguet.

Raising teachers’ pay to help affirm dignity of teaching

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said raising the compensation of teachers is the best affirmation of government’s high regard for the country’s educators and their contributions to nation-building. 

The senator issued the statement in time for National Teachers’ Day, which is being observed on October 5 (Saturday).

A staunch education advocate, Cayetano authored Senate Bill No. 70, or the ‘Additional Support and Compensation for Educators in Basic Education Act.’

The measure proposes a salary increase of P10,000 per month for public school teachers, locally-funded teachers, and non-teaching personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd).

The salary hike shall be granted over three years in three tranches, starting with a P4,000 monthly pay hike on the first year, an additional P3,000 per month on the second year, and a final increment of P3,000 per month on the third year.

The bill is currently being deliberated with similar measures by a technical working group under the Senate Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation.

“Raising the compensation of teachers affirms the dignity of the teaching profession. This will not only improve their lives, but also inspire them to further improve,” she explained.

 

“We have so many hardworking teachers who deserve more support. Also, we can still do better to make the teaching profession more attractive to the best and brightest,” she stressed.

 

“I want to be able to leave that kind of legacy to our children – that they can go to any school in the Philippines, and get the best education possible because they will be mentored by intelligent and dedicated teachers,” she added.

 

Cayetano pointed out that empowering teachers to successfully fulfill their role in society is part of the country’s commitments to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

Goal 4 of the SDGs particularly states that by 2030, the supply of qualified teachers in the country should have substantially increased.

   

Apart from the salary adjustment, Cayetano’s bill seeks to grant public school teachers the following benefits: Medical allowance, a yearly bonus based on the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670), and additional compensation from local school board funds.

The former chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture, Cayetano has championed the passage of landmark laws that enhanced public education in the country, including the National Teacher’s Day Act (RA 10743), Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education or UniFAST Act (RA 10687), Open High School System Act (RA 10665), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648), and Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647).#

Senator Pia Cayetano: “We have so many hardworking teachers who deserve more support.”

Pia: Congress has jurisdiction to tax e-cigarettes

Amid rising concerns in many countries about the health risks of electronic cigarettes and vapes, Senator Pia S. Cayetano reiterated that Congress has the jurisdiction to impose higher taxes on these products as a means to regulate their use.

 

The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Cayetano made the assertion at the start of plenary debates on Senate Bill No. 1074, which seeks to raise ‘sin’ taxes on alcohol and vaping products. 

Responding to the questions of Senator Francis Tolentino, Cayetano clarified that Congress has already imposed taxes on e-cigarettes since the enactment of Republic Act 11346 earlier this year. 

Tolentino had asked Cayetano whether Congress can impose a tax on e-cigarettes, even if these products have yet to be given certification by the government through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

“As to whether we can tax a product that’s not been given permission to be sold, let me point out that under RA 11346, we (lawmakers) have already taxed e-cigarettes,” Cayetano noted. 

“So this committee is not proposing a new kind of tax. It’s already recognized by Congress under its jurisdiction. This committee is just increasing that tax,” she added. 

Cayetano pointed out that taxation is “just one tool” that would help curb these new kinds of vices. She said other pro-health initiatives should be put in place to complement the sin tax bill. 

“Taxation is not the end-all, be-all. So we must help our health department come up with measures to provide a health approach to the problem of smoking and drinking,” she said, while expressing her plan to push for additional regulatory measures on e-cigarettes.

The senator said she is in the process of drafting a bill mandating the government to “look into the harmful effects of e-cigarettes,” which shall be referred to the Committee on Health. 

She also intends to draft a measure that would regulate the marketing and ban the advertising of e-cigarettes in the country. 

“Exposure to these products will be dangerous because the science is not yet clear about its dangers. I’m concerned for the young people in general as these products can easily entice them,” she explained. 

“Our goal is to reduce people’s consumption of these sin products, on top of generating more revenues to finance our Universal Health Care program,” she stressed.

A total of 42 countries worldwide have already banned the use of e-cigarettes, while 10 countries banned the use of heated tobacco products (HTPs) due to growing evidence that such products are dangerous to people’s health.

Earlier this year, the FDA gave manufacturers, importers, and retailers of e-cigarettes three months to register and comply with specific regulations before they could sell their products legally.

These include a license to operate and the issuance of a certificate of product registration. The three-month period is set to end this October. #

Senator Pia Cayetano: Taxation is “just one tool” to help curb new kinds of vices. She said other pro-health initiatives should be put in place to complement the sin tax bill. 

Pia: Let’s build a nation of winners!

Co-sponsorship speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Senate Bill No. 1086, establishing a Philippine High School for Sports

Mr. President,

This is a happy day for me because I drafted and filed this bill 9 years ago. I was so much younger then and ran so much faster. But so did the presiding officer. 

It is no secret that I am a believer in sports, and I believe that sports can change lives. I am proud to be a member of a Senate where majority of the members include sports in their lives:

Needless to say, Sen. Manny Pacquaio is considered as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time.

Senator Manny Pacquiao is the only boxer in history to win world titles in eight different weight divisions.

The Senate President, Philippine National Team in bowling, garnered gold several times, and currently is a golf enthusiast who still continues to win tournaments.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III was a 7-time member of the Philippine bowling team. He competed twice in the World Cup and was an international gold medalist in ten pin bowling.

Our Majority Floor Leader, Migz, National Champion and 1989 World Champion. I saw the video and I wish we could play it. But please interpellate me later on so I can play that World Championship… the winning moves. I think a few kilos lighter. 

Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri was a world Arnis champion.

And then we have our “never say die” basketball players. Sen. Joel Villanueva, a UST Growling Tigers UAAP champion 1994-1995 and Philippine national team.

Senator Joel Villanueva played for the UST Growling Tigers champion team and the Phllippine national basketball team.

And then Senator Sonny Angara, who is part of the Senate Defenders – that is the official name of our basketball team. 

Senator Sonny Angara plays for the Senate Defenders. The team actively competes in inter-government agency basketball tournaments, such as the UNTV Cup.

Sen. Bong Go, who brings serious professionalism to the games that he plays with the likes of my brother. He was part of the roster of the Muntinlupa Cagers in the Maharlika Basketball League, a pro league started by Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

A known supporter of sports in Davao City and national athletes, Senator Bong Go was part of the Muntinlupa Cagers’ roster in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).

Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, my batch mate in UP, we were both UP volleyball Maroons. And he was also a track and field runner – a track runner. 

Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan was a track athlete and volleyball player for the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons.

Next is Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, I approached him to ask for a picture. That is actually not his main sport but that is his current sport. Correct? Am I correct? But his sport as a young athlete included soccer, swimming, and taekwondo. 

Young Senator Ralph Recto played football, swimming and taekwondo. His current sport: Boxing.

So again, please interpellate me so that I can put the pictures – the appropriate pictures of Sen. Recto while I am defending this bill. 

And then our main sponsor, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian. That was the… I actually failed to get the full description, but the picture speaks for itself. 

The principal sponsor of SBN 1086, Senator Win Gatchalian, played basketball in high school at Grace Christian School and in college at Boston University.

And yours truly, a UP Maroon and National Team Player for Volleyball as well.

Senator Pia Cayetano was part of the last UP Lady Maroons squad to win a UAAP championship. She also played for the Philippine National Women’s Volleyball Team.

Anyway, so now that I have put you all in a better mood, the sad reality we face. Mr. President, is that many of our young athletes who show talent are usually forced to choose between an education and sports. That window where they can shine as an athlete is not open for a long time. They must take advantage of that moment in time. And if they miss it, the moment is gone. 

Because of that, some choose to give up schooling, others give up their sports.  Those who give up schooling take a huge risk. Betting on sports alone for your future is a shot in the dark.  Not everyone gets to be a Manny Pacquiao. After their moment in the lime light, without an education, they have little to fall back on. 

I’d like to share another story, which is the story of many athletes today. One of my lawyers, Joei Gana-Teves – she made it to the Philippine volleyball youth team. But her teacher did not believe in sports and considered her absent every time she attended practices and threatened to fail her when she had to leave for one week to participate in the Asian youth games.

She then made a choice to go to the games and was very much impressed but at the same time saddened that other countries like Singapore and Malaysia, had a national sports high school where they were able to study and do the sport they love at the same time. 

But this need not happen, Mr. President.

In countries that take sports seriously, they start at a young age. Those who show talent are given the chance to train with the best coaches and with equally talented and driven athletes. They are able to do that because they have sports centers all over the country and they have sports schools – high schools and universities. National sports schools and universities.

I had the privilege of visiting some of these sports high schools in Germany and Spain. The young athletes were able to focus on their sport but at the same time continue their studies.

Fast forward, and obviously, Senator Bong Go and I have the same source. We both have visited New Clark City. This was very early in 2018, when we did some groundbreaking. This is the initial stages of the construction. 

Construction of New Clark City Athletics Stadium started in 2018.

Fast forward, not even two years later. This is the New Clark City today….

The New Clark City Athletic Stadium. (September 6, 2019)

This aerial photo was actually taken from Gretchen Ho. I borrowed that from her. If you look at the main circle, that is the stadium, and the track in the middle is the main track. You will wonder, why is there another track on the upper right side. Well that is the practice track, the warm up track. That is required to have that Class 1 certification. 

And, if you look at the next picture I am about to show, so this is the picture of the actual track and stadium, the next picture. Okay, the one on the right is an actual requirement also to get that Class 1 certification. It is an 80-meter indoor track where you warm up just before your event is called. So you have those two warm up tracks in addition to the main track. That is air-conditioned by the way. 

I happened to visit a few weeks ago, and those are national track athletes that I was running with. 

This is the swimming pool. Take note, that is an 8-lane, 50-meter pool. But that is just the warm up pool. The main pool is 10 lanes and has a bigger capacity. And then on the right side is the diving pool. So together, this is also a world-class certified aqua center, the only one in the country. 

This is the dormitories, the same photo that Sen. Go showed you. We actually have the national triathlon team and the national track and field team living in these quarters now. And pretty soon, this will be the home of the Southeast Asian Games athletes who will come here to participate in December. 

New Clark City is a sustainable city that will house our athletes for the SEA Games. And this is also where this sports school will be built.  

It is envisioned that the students will have access to vocational, sports, and academic tracks so that each of them can still fulfill their own dreams.

Mr. President, Senate Bill 506, which I filed, is considered in this Committee Report. However, my version, Mr. President, specifically has a provision that says that the track will not be limited to sports. Because there are athletes who dream to be other things, to be more than athletes. They can be an athlete and they can have other professions as well. 

Just because I am only familiar with the UP graduates, I use them as an example. Mr. President, UP has produced, among others, two summa cum laude graduates, one with a BS in Math, summa cum laude, and another one with a BS in Sports Science who went on and is currently in her third year in med school with PGH UP College of Manila. They did this while being in the varsity of UP. The BS Math major was a Judo player, and the other one was a volleyball player. 

Assuming that there was a high school for sports when they were younger, it would have been really sad if we limited them to a sports program, because clearly, they had the ability and the desire to do something else as well. 

And that is why we are also pushing for programs beyond sports to be offered for Senior High here. Mr. President, I call on your support dear colleagues. Let us help make these individual dreams come true and at the same time build a nation of winners.

Thank you. #

Senator Pia Cayetano delivers her co-sponsorship speech of the bill seeking to establish a Philippine High School for Sports. She showed throwback photos of senators competing in their favorite/chosen sports – to the delight of her colleagues.