Senators mull raising tobacco excise tax to fund universal health care program

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 13 2018 01:33 PM

MANILA- Senators will discuss this month the possible increase of excise taxes on tobacco products to fund the proposed Universal Health Care program.

Sen. Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate committee on ways and means, said Tuesday a legislative inquiry would be held to see if whether increasing the so-called "sin tax" would make for a viable source of funding.

"Our committee is set to conduct a hearing this month to see if raising sin taxes again is a viable means in funding the proposed UHC," he said in a statement.

"Sin taxes have been crucial in funding health programs of the government," he added.

With 2019 budget deliberations ongoing, Angara also assured that the Senate would find a source of funding for the proposed UHC bill.

"Kung ang Free College Law nga ay napondohan natin, lalo na itong programa para sa kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino," he said.

(If we were able to fund the Free College Law, we can fund the program for the Filipino people's health.)

The Senate last month passed the UHC bill on final reading, barely a year since the House of Representatives passed its counterpart measure.

Under the bill, all Filipino families will be covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation. It also seeks to improve access to health services by ensuring the availability of medicines, and health facilities.

Health advocates on Tuesday also urged Angara to increase excise taxes on tobacco products through a dance program in front of the Senate.

Senator JV Ejercito also vowed to push for the immediate approval of the higher sin taxes, noting its importance to see the successful implementation of the UHC program.

The Department of Health earlier expressed support for proposals to increase the tobacco excise tax to fund the UHC program.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque earlier said the government needs P769.55 billion to fund the first four years of the UHC program.