IN impoverished Philippines, a country teeming with people afflicted with lung cancer, emphysema, asthma and other respiratory diseases, increasing tobacco tax is most welcome.
Even Health Secretary Francisco Duque III acknowledged that higher tobacco tax will fund the universal health care (UHC) program and reduce the number of smokers in the country.
There are two bills tackling the increase of the excise tax on tobacco, which is Senate Bill No. 1599 by Sen. Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, and Senate Bill No. 1605 by Sen. JV Ejercito.
Secretary Duque said the passage of the UHC bill, which is seen to ensure that health care is within the reach of every Filipino, is a priority of the administration of President Duterte.
A medical doctor, Duque said increasing taxes on tobacco is one of the best ways to generate additional revenues to finance the Duterte government’s universal health care program.
Likewise, the proposed legislation pushes for the equity in provision of health care, especially for those in geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas in the country, he said.
It also strengthens the national government’s multi-pronged campaign to regulate health facilities and health care providers and health insurance policies, according to Secretary Duque.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, said that since the UHC bill is a tax measure, the bonus will be on the funds it could generate para lalo pa natin mapaganda ang ating health care system.
Hontiveros said around 10 percent annual increase on tobacco tax will result in one million less smokers by 2022, when the tough-talking Duterte’s six-year presidency ends.
The filing of SB Nos. 1599 and 1605 must also raise the cue for other sectors to pick up the ball and come up with ways and means to ensure the success of the country’s anti-smoking drive.
This, if they have the genuine concern for the health and welfare of the Filipino people.