“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. #