Aquino does not want youth to smoke, says aideBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino smokes but doesn’t want youngsters to join the smoking club.
This is the biggest argument for senators and congressmen to approve a sin tax reform measure that imposes a higher tax on cigarettes, Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), said Friday.
“The President himself can’t get out of the vice. Does he want the younger generation to be in the same predicament as he is?’’ Mamba said in a telephone interview. “That’s why he’s supportive of this. He doesn’t want the youth to be in the same situation.’’
Aquino’s smoking habit doesn’t contradict his stand on the sin tax measure. On the contrary, one “reinforces” the other, he added.
It is after all a “health measure” that seeks to discourage “new entrants” to the smoking club by imposing higher taxes on cigarettes, Mamba said.
A version of the bill approved by the Senate ways and means committee has sparked a debate because its projected revenues of P15 billion from new tax rates for tobacco and alcoholic drinks are way below the P60 billion targeted by the Department of Finance and Department of Health.
Malacañang has called the attention of the committee chair, Senator Ralph Recto, to the big discrepancy, and declared preference for the version that would realize the biggest revenue for health services. Recto defended his version as “more realistic.”
Mamba, whose office acts as a middle man between Malacañang and Congress, said the President could always use his “moral suasion” on the lawmakers to salvage the measure.
“The President can do moral suasion. This is a health bill. First, because incremental revenues will go to health services programs. And secondly, it discourages new entrants into the vice,” he said. “The President is calling upon leaders of Congress to see this thing in this light.”
The measure, he said, could still be “salvaged” since it was still being debated in plenary at the Senate.
Abigail Valte, one of the President’s spokespersons, said the finance and health department have not given up on the measure.
“The team from the Department of Finance or the team from the Department of Health will continue to work with other advocates to convince our legislators of how important the sin tax measure will be to providing for more coverage for the universal healthcare program,” she said at a news briefing.
Valte said the team would always have their “eyes on the ball” and continue to provide resources and materials to legislative staff.
“While they may have felt that way (betrayed), they continue to be focused on their advocacy,” she said.
On claims that high taxes would kill the tobacco industry, Mamba said that “incremental revenues” would go to the farmers.
Reacting to claims that the high taxes would encourage smuggling, he said that the Philippines sells the cheapest cigarettes in Asia.
Mamba declined comment on insinuations that tobacco and liquor companies lobbied senators to craft a version imposing relatively lower taxes.