Flavier denounces Recto: Don’t fool publicBy Philip C. Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Don’t fool the public.
Former Sen. Juan Flavier on Friday denounced Sen. Ralph Recto’s committee report on the proposed sin tax bill for allegedly putting the interests of the powerful tobacco lobby ahead of the health of millions of Filipinos.
Flavier, a popular health secretary during the Ramos administration, said imposing higher taxes on cigarettes was justified and realistic since the current sin taxes were based on 1996 retail prices of tobacco products.
He urged legislators to pass the sin tax measure that would impose a 70-percent excise tax on the retail prices of cigarettes, a move that is expected to reduce the number of smokers by 2 million.
“It’s not about passing a sin tax law. It is about passing a sin tax measure at the effective and proper rates. Otherwise, we’re just fooling each other,” said Flavier, who as health secretary launched the “Yosi Kadiri” antismoking campaign and championed family planning despite the vehement opposition of the Catholic Church.
“If they want to be fooled, that’s really up to them. But I hope none of them looks to fooling our people as well,” he said.
Flavier said the sin tax bill was first and foremost an anticancer tax measure intended to prevent a lung cancer epidemic from breaking out because of the large number of Filipinos who smoke and the availability of cheap cigarettes.
He urged lawmakers to heed the recommendations by the World Bank and the World Health Organization on the proper sin taxes that would curb smoking and generate huge revenues for health care.
“The sin tax bill as originally proposed would have moved us forward. Recto’s version keeps us all in the same place. There is also a preponderance of evidence worldwide that higher taxes achieve two things: they reduce the incidence of smoking by raising prices, and they raise more revenue that we can hopefully plow into health care,” he said.
Extends status quo
“If you water down the rates, the twin benefits are diminished,” he said.
Flavier said Recto’s proposal would keep tobacco prices cheap and accessible to the poor and the young.
“Knowing how hard legislation is, it basically extends the status quo for years or at least until we have more progressive senators,” he said.