MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Finance (DOF) is willing to accept a lower revenue target from sin taxes, as long as it accomplishes the objective of the bill.
In an interview on ANC's Headstart, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said he will still try to get as much revenues as possible from the sin tax bill, which is currently being deliberated at the Senate.
Asked if the government is willing to lower the target to P40 billion, he said, "My job is to raise as much revenues as possible and I will go as high a number as I can get because our budget continues to increase. Nevertheless, we would be willing to accept a lower number provided it accomplishes the objectives of the bill."
"The objective is not just revenue, but it is also a health bill, is to discourage our youth from smoking and consuming sin products and to be able to fund universal healthcare, especially for the poorest of the poor."
The DOF originally targeted P60 billion in revenues from sin tax reform, but the committee report by the Senate ways and means committee, headed by Senator Ralph Recto, only projected P20 billion in revenues.
Purisima admitted he apologized to Recto, who quit as chairman after being heavily criticized for the sin tax report. Recto has said he accepted the apology.
"What i was apologizing for was the unnecessary name-calling that came out in the press that was attributed to some of our team members. For me, name-calling is not productive, we are professionals," he said.
The Finance Secretary apologized on behalf of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares, Health Secretary Enrique Ona and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office chief Manuel Mamba, who was quoted in reports as accusing lawmakers of receiving bribes from tobacco companies.
Despite the delays, Purisima still hopes the sin tax reform bill will be passed before the 2013 elections.
"We are hoping this will be passed in this Congress... This will send the right signal to financial markets and investors that this Aquino government, as it has proven may times, will not allow vested interest to stand in the way of progress," he said.