The primary objective of significantly increasing tax rates on alcohol is to make these harmful products less accessible to the country’s youth, Senator Pia S. Cayetano said on Tuesday (November 5).
The chairperson of the Senate Ways and Means Committee stressed this point at the resumption of plenary debates on Senate Bill No. 1074, which seeks to raise the excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and e-cigarettes, including heated tobacco products and vapes.
Responding to the interpellation of Senator Manny Pacquiao, a co-author of SB 1074, Cayetano noted, “What we want to achieve is [to significantly raise our alcohol prices] so that these are not so accessible to the most vulnerable: the children and youth.”
“Hindi po tayo naniniwala na kailangan affordable ang alak sa ating mga kabataan. For example, sa isang bote ng gin, ang karagdagang presyo lang dito ay Php2.00 per shot [under SB 1074]. Nasa Php6.00 ang isang shot [based on the current price of gin],” she explained.
Cayetano also defended the tax rates proposed under SB 1074, which are notably higher than the rates approved by the House of Representatives and those recommended by the Department of Finance (DOF).
“What I have proposed is a rate that is higher than that proposed and passed in the House of Representatives. In fact, it is also higher than that initially showed to me by DOF. But both the DOF and DOH [Department of Health] now support my version,” she said.
The senator explained that, even with the P47.9 billion additional revenues that can be generated under her proposal, there would still be an P11.8 billion gap in the funding for government’s Universal Health Care (UHC) program.
She added that even if this gap is bridged, the UHC would only be able to deliver bare minimum services because of the program’s huge funding requirement. As such, she said any additional health revenue should be welcomed to grant Filipinos better access to basic and specialized health services.
“Kailangan lang natin bumisita sa isang healthcare center para maintindihan natin na malayo pa ang patutunguhan natin… Yung mga nakikita nating mga ospital na dilapidated, hindi pa lahat ora-orada magagawa,” Cayetano pointed out.
“Items like catastrophic illnesses, including cancer, hindi pa po covered ng mga packages natin sa UHC. In fairness with DOH and PhilHealth, every year they are increasing and improving their packages. But that is the nature of the problems they face because of the lack of funding… And because we are a country with more than 7,000 islands, it’s going to be very difficult to readily provide the kind of health care we dream of,” she added.
Meanwhile, Cayetano clarified that taxation alone cannot address the country’s problems on alcoholism and cigarette addiction, stressing that it is just part of a more comprehensive plan to protect Filipinos’ health and well being.
“Taxation is not meant to be used as a lone preventive tool, but should be [implemented] along with other measures including education campaigns and advocacies,” she said. (senate.gov.ph)