Recto sin tax bill won’t discourage smoking: consultant

By Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Oct 11 2012 03:21 PM | Updated as of Oct 11 2012 11:21 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Ralph Recto’s “watered down version” of the sin tax reform bill does not only reduce government revenues but also impedes efforts to discourage people from smoking, said a Department of Health (DOH) consultant.
 
In an interview with ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda Thursday, Dr. Anthony Leachon criticized Recto’s committee report on the measure.
 
Senate Bill 3299 provides for more tiers for liquor and tobacco products and lower rates of increases, as compared to the version approved by the House in June.
The bill approved by the Senate ways and means committee would only raise prices of cigarettes by P7.50-P14.50, while alcoholic products would go up by P13.75-P18.80.
 
Recto also said earlier proposals were unrealistic because higher taxes would only result to less consumption, and thus less revenues for the government.
 
But lowering the sin tax would mean bigger problems.
 
"Malaking problema ‘yan. ‘Pag mababa ang sin tax mo, less ang revenues niyan para sa health care—konti ang PhilHealth natin, infrastructure of hospitals natin, salary of doctors, researchers at iba pang health promotions," Leachon said.
 
"Di rin natin madidiscourage ang mga tao na tumigil sa paninigarilyo. ‘Yun ang pinaka-spirit nun eh. ‘Pag natigil mo ang paninigarilyo, P180 billion actually ang matitipid mo dito na ilalaan mo na para sa ibang proyekto. Ang spirit ng pag-aaral dito sa sin tax ay dapat matigil natin ang paninigarilyo," he added.
 
Leachon slammed Recto’s claims, saying increasing taxes would actually compensate the decrease in cigarette and alcohol consumption.
 
“’Yung pagbabago ng consumption ay macocompensate sa price increase ng sigarilyo. ‘Yung mayayaman at kayang maka-afford maninigarilyo pa rin. That will compensate the decrease in volume and consumption,” he said.
 
Leachon also noted there are studies in other countries which linked higher taxes to lower rates of smoking. "Therefore, kokonti ang magkakasakit sa atin, kokonti ang babayaran ng gobyerno."
 
“It’s a sanctuary law...a law that will curve alcohol and smoking, and earn revenues for the government,” he said.
 
The health consultant also agreed that Recto’s committee report on the sin tax bill is a “Philip Morris” version.
 
In Recto’s proposal, total government revenues would only yield P15 billion, a far cry from the P60 billion in revenues that will be generated by the proposal of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
 
He said DOH and the Department of Finance support Santiago’s version, where prices of all cigarettes would increase by P30.
 
“Mataas na sin tax, mas kikita, mas madaming benepisyo ang gobyerno sa health care,” Leachon added.
 
Leachon added that he will try to enlighten senators who would have to interpellate the bill. “Sana maintindihan nila kung saan kami nanggagaling.”
 
“Gusto naming i-enjoin ang civil society, mga doktor, health care professionals and economists kasi ito ay pagkakataon nating mai-correct ‘to at maging healthier ang bayan natin. Kikita na tayo, mababawasan pa ang sakit natin. At sa ganung paraan, lahat ng ating mamamayan ay magiging masagana in terms of kalusugan,” Leachon said.