Mr. Speaker, I wish to explain my vote.
Mr. Speaker, I am voting against this measure for the following reasons:
First, the President’s campaign against smoking must be supported. He has shown it with the way he prohibited smoking in public places in Davao. We must support this laudable policy by enacting a measure that will further enhance his anti-smoking campaign. The statistics are quite glaring. Ten Filipinos die every hour due to smoking-related diseases. That’s 87,600 deaths a year. There are actually those who are not really direct smokers but get sick and die because of second-hand smoke inhalation.
Second, I take my cue from health advocates who have strongly advocated for a unitary structure on cigarettes as a two-tiered excise tax as what this bill proposes only encourages down-shifting and does not really curb smoking. The potential for the poorer smokers to stop smoking is actually higher if we have a unitary excise tax on cigarettes.
Third, a unitary excise tax is implemented in Australia, Japan, Ireland, and Thailand, and is considered a best practice globally. Why must we deviate from such global standard, when the current Sin Tax Law otherwise known as RA 10351 has been heavily debated during the 15th Congress? The debates during the 15th Congress has substantially laid down gains both on health, revenues, and farmers.
The list of countries practicing unitary tax tier on cigarettes is rather long. It will be rather long to enumerate all 69 of them, Mr. Speaker but apart from the four that I have mentioned earlier, please note that Canada, the US, Cuba, Germany, Switzerland, UK, Malaysia, Hungary, and Denmark are among these.
Finally, I lament that we did not take time to study another tax proposal in the Ways and Means Committee – HB 4575 which potentially raises more revenues than what is on the table. After just two hearings, this bill was quickly reported out.
As such Mr. Speaker, I am voting against this measure.