Health groups urge PRRD to certify alcohol, e-cig tax hike urgent

MANILA — The Sin Tax Coalition, a group of health advocates, on Monday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to certify the proposal to raise taxes on alcoholic beverages, heated tobacco products (HTPs), and vapor products as an urgent measure.

“We note the administration’s pronouncement in the 2019 State of the Nation Address asking Congress to prioritize the passage of the bill increasing the excise taxes on these sin products… It is our common goal to have the new higher taxes on alcohol, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products implemented on the first day of 2020,” the coalition said in a statement.

Representatives from medical societies such as the Philippine Medical Association, the Philippine College of Physicians, and the Philippine Pediatric Society, together with the youth, senior citizens, urban poor communities and other members of civil society organizations are behind the statement.

The excise tax increase on alcohol, HTPs, and vape would prevent young people from accessing them, the group stressed.

The group cited a Global School-Based Student Health survey in 2015 showed two out of three 13-15 years old high school students in the country, whoever had a drink of alcohol other than a few sips, admitted that they started drinking alcohol before 14 years old.

It also cited a National Nutrition Survey of 2018 which shows that one out of five e-cigarette users in the country comes from young Filipinos aged 10 to 19 years old.

“The main reason to tax these products is to protect young people from accessing the product,” the statement read.

Senate ways and means committee chairperson Pia Cayetano sponsored Senate Bill 1074 before which seeks to align the tax rate of HTPs and vape with that of traditional cigarettes at PHP45 starting next year.

For alcoholic beverages, Cayetano proposes to increase the tax on distilled spirits from PHP23.5 to PHP90 per proof liter with a 20 percent ad valorem tax beginning next year.

Meanwhile, fermented liquors and alcopops would be taxed at PHP45 per liter, up from PHP25.4. A specific tax of PHP600 would be imposed on sparkling wines, while a specific tax of PHP43 would be imposed on still and carbonated wines beginning 2020.

Earlier, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the bill is expected to generate around PHP47.9 billion in incremental revenue, which would help bridge the funding gap for the first year of implementation of the Universal Health Care law. Ma. Teresa Montemayor/PNA- northboundasia.com