MANILA, Philippines - The Senate committee on ways and means said sin tax measure approved by the House is unfair, especially for the tobacco farmers and the tobacco industry.
During a recent hearing, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile described as inequitable House Bill 5727. “Under the bill being presented to us, some products are being favored over other products,” Enrile said.
Sen. Ralph Recto, committee chairman, echoed Enrile’s view. “That’s what many senators observe. There is need for reform but the bill favors one product over the other. That’s the problem, it is not fair,” Recto said.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos said the House bill will displace the three million farmers who have been depending mainly on the local tobacco industry for livelihood. “What are we going to do with them,” Marcos asked.
“If these taxes are indeed imposed, what could we do to help the estimated three million farmers and their families who depend on this industry? It is our responsibility to find ways to address the loss of economic activity in the region,” Marcos said.
Enrile said while the government should provide for a universal healthcare program, it should also take into consideration the “stomach of our people in the tobacco-producing provinces.”
“We are also protecting our own people. We cannot tax them too much,” Enrile declared.
As it is now, Enrile said the tobacco industry is already one of the most restricted businesses in the country.
“We have imposed many restrictions on this industry. There is a ban on advertising and they were also mandated to put health warning on their products and yet the people are still smoking. We cannot reduce the incidence of smoking in this country lower than what it is now, simply by increasing the tax,” Enrile said.
Enrile said he himself started smoking at age nine and stopped smoking when he was 65 years old. In their place in Cagayan, he said most of the fishermen and farmers are smokers.
“I have not seen a person dying of cancer in the shorelines of Cagayan… In the rural areas I hardly know anybody who died of cancer among the farmers, and yet, tobacco is very prevalent in our area. We grow tobacco in Isabela, in Cagayan, in Pangasinan, in Ilocos Sur, La Union, Ilocos Norte, and this has been ever since I could remember,” Enrile said.