Santiago ‘gobsmacked’ at Recto sin tax bill versionBy Maila Ager
MANILA, Philippines—Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Thursday branded Senator Ralph Recto’s version of the sin tax bill as an “abject surrender to the very rich and very powerful tobacco and alcohol lobby.”
“I am gobsmacked—speechless with amazement— at the committee report. It bears no recognizable resemblance to my bill. It is an abject surrender to the very rich and very powerful tobacco and alcohol lobby,” Santiago said in a statement.
Santiago is the principal author of Senate Bill No. 3249, or “An Act restructuring the excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products,” and one of the signatories of Committee Report No. 111 endorsed for plenary debates Wednesday by Recto, who is chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means.
But the lady senator said she signed the report “only for the purpose of getting the bill out to the plenary session.”
Unlike the approved version of the committee, Santiago said her proposed bill would generate P60 billion revenues for the first year compared with the P15 billion projected revenues based on Recto’s report.
“When cigarettes and liquor are cheap, more people will use them. The Philippines already has one of the lowest prices of cigarettes and alcohol in Southeast Asia. That’s why every hour, 10 Filipinos die from tobacco use. Smoking causes 240 deaths every single day,” she said.
Under a treaty called the “Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” Santiago said, the tax on tobacco should be 70 percent of the price of the product.
The treaty, she said, aims to reduce the number of smokers from 28 percent to 25 percent by 2014.
This was the reason why, according to Santiago, her bill imposes a tax of P30 per pack of cigarettes by 2015.
“My bill imposes a unitary tax system, as recommended by the World Health Organization. The Recto bill uses a three-tier tax rate for tobacco and alcohol products, making them cheaper and thereby encouraging their use,” she said.
Santiago said her bill would save 4.15 million smokers in the first year while Recto’s version would save only 2.93 million smokers.
“My bill will raise the prices of cigarettes and alcohol, but it will save the lives of 240 Filipinos every day. Cigarette smoke contains 60 chemicals that cause cancer,” Santiago said.
She then called on university students and social media netizens to join the war against the committee version of the sin tax bill, which she branded as “the death star bill.”