The Manila Times - Senator urges Aquino to quit smoking anew

26 November 2012

By Jefferson Antiporda | The Manila Times

The-Manila-Times-NetSEN. Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos on Sunday said that it would be better if the chief executive would support his government on its aim to reduce the number of Filipinos smoking cigarettes by starting to quit smoking.

Marcos in an interview aired over DzBB on Sunday said that the government might find it difficult to convince its constituents to stop smoking when the president himself is not capable of quitting.

The government has been pushing for the approval of the sin tax reform bill that seeks to impose higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol products in the country in order to generate more funds to be used for the government’s universal health care program and to discourage the poor and the youth from smoking.

Both the chambers of Congress already passed their respective versions of the bill and are set to refer the measure to the bicameral conference committee this week.

The Senate’s version of the proposed measure aims to collect P40 billion additional revenues on the first year of its implementation while the House of Representatives’ version seeks to generate P31.5 billion.

Marcos, however, understands that it is really hard to quit smoking and if the sin tax bill will be effective in reducing the number of people smoking cigarette the public may let the president continue with his habit.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the Associated Anglo American Tobacco Corp. (AAATC) expressed disappointment over the “extremely high” excise tax rates recently approved by the Senate, saying that the bill would force small local manufacturers in the tobacco industry to spend money to advance tax payments that are even higher than the capital needed to make their products.

Blake Dy, vice-president of the AAATC, lamented that the final version of the excise tax bill approved by the Senate completely ignored the plight of small cigarette makers like them.

“No business can survive under this setup where we would have to go deep in to debt even before we are able to make a sale of a single pack of cigarettes in order to pay the high taxes in advance,” Dy said.

What is also concerning is that they will lose their market if they will abruptly increase their prices because they cater to smokers from the low-income bracket who will likely switch to illegal cigarettes instead.

He noted that more than the big players, small manufacturers such as AAATC would have to lay off workers and eventually fold up their operations under the Senate-approved tax scheme.

Dy also pointed out that the Senate bill would destroy the viability of the native cigarette market because its tax will be equal to that of white cigarettes like Fortune.

In anticipation of the sin tax implementation AAATC will be closing its native department by April of next year, which will result in the layoff of dozens of hand packers, and have already ceased purchases of native tobacco from Isabela province.

“This is truly a sad day when our elected senators take the side of imports over the small Filipino workers and entrepreneurs in seeming contravention of our Constitution,” he added.