‘Sin tax’ bill favors imports—Enrile


Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The sin tax bill being debated in Congress tends to favor imported cigarettes as it appears the proposed tax increases on tobacco products do not cover foreign brands, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Wednesday.

According to Enrile, the problem is a question of equity. “My impression is that the bill tends to favor the entry of foreign manufactured tobacco products to the detriment of local products that use material grown in the country,” he said.

Enrile cited a statement made Sen. Franklin Drilon, the acting chairman of the ways and means committee, during the plenary debate on the bill.

“We are not certain at this point whether a higher tax rate for imported cigarettes would be in compliance and consistent with (the country’s) obligations under GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade),” he quoted Drilon as saying.

Under GATT, the international trade agreement that the Philippines signed in 1994, all signatories automatically became members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and are required to adhere to provisions that some of its critics claim are unfavorable to Philippine agriculture.

Drilon said the members of the ways and means committee “[had] not studied” whether the WTO provisions allowed higher taxes to be imposed on tobacco products imported into the country.

WTO rules require members to allow more liberalized trading arrangements among fellow members.

Sen. Edgardo Angara was the first to warn about this scenario even before the start of Senate debates on the sin tax bill. Angara was the Senate President when the chamber ratified the GATT.

Enrile clarified that he is “in favor of enforcing [an] additional tax” on sin products if the aim is to provide funds for the government’s health-care program.

However, he observed that it was unclear whether imported cigarettes would be covered once the unitary scheme of P32 additional tax per pack of cigarettes takes effect.

As it is,  the entry of imported cigarettes cannot be stopped because “we have to comply with the WTO,” he said.

“What would be the rate of increase, if any, for imported cigarettes to be marketed in the country when we put in place unitary rate?” he asked.

Drilon earlier explained that “gradual increases” in taxes on tobacco products would make a pack of low-priced cigarettes cost P14 more while a higher-end brand would cost P28 more if the sin tax bill is approved.

In two to three years, the  bill provides that the Bureau of Internal Revenue impose a unitary rate of P32 per pack for low- and high-end cigarettes.

The Aquino administration is aiming for a 60-percent increase in taxes of sin products once Congress passes the measure aimed at curbing alcohol and cigarette addiction among Filipinos and, at the same time, increasing revenue.

The Senate is racing against time to pass the measure, with  Drilon reminding his colleagues that they have until Nov. 19 to approve it.

Meanwhile, Malacañang yesterday disputed an advertisement by local tobacco growers that claimed the sin tax bill could increase taxes on popular cigarette brands by more than 1,000 percent.

“The appearance of that ad would imply that upon the passing of the sin tax bill into law the increase will be immediately 1,000 percent. That is incorrect,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

“The rate right now is P2.72 (per pack of cigarette). Next year, it will be P12. That’s hardly 1,000 (percent). After that, P22, until it reaches in 2016 to P32,” said Lacierda, without specifying any particular brand.

Even with the passage of the law, cigarettes in the country will still have the lowest price in Asia, he said.

A pack of the lowest-priced brand in Thailand is sold at P72, P26 in Vietnam, and P48.50 in Indonesia, Lacierda claimed. With Michael Lim Ubac

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • edm365f31

    what the h#ll are you complaining pack of cigarettes here in the state is 4 to 7 dolars.

    • moshki

      …my camel cost 5.56 now…

      • boyod

        and my horse is worth more than your camel

    • Ommm

       Most Filipinos are lucky to earn 4USD per day…while you enjoy a minimum wage of well over $10 per hour….that’s what they are complaining about….

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VUFRGRCCA5JXOLKEVCJQ3FBW3Y Concerned Citizen

    Nice to see positive inputs like this.  Best decisions are made. Unlike other bills where stubborness, insensitivity and indifference to sufferings and poverty  coupled with unwillingness to accept any responsibility rule.

  • Bengatibo

    Sin tax bill is for our health, for our government, for our economy, for our country, For every Filipino. Sin Tax Bill should NOT be for the Tobacco Industry!!! Ang laki na nang kita nila, ngawa pa sila nang ngawa!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roehlano-Briones/100000612921208 Roehlano Briones

    Of course puede magtaas ng tax sa imported cigarettes under WTO. Basta pareho lang ang rate sa domestic brands. National treatment dapat lagi ang imported cigarettes. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5UOZM4PWIDKO7G64HL3PPMXUTM Constantine

    Once a uniform tax rate is imposed, then it follows that this is applicable to all brands whether local or imported. And the GATT tax rate is consistent with our laws. There is no buts or ifs on this matter, Enrile is just trying to meddle up the situation in order to delay its approval. But of course the people will not forget what he is doing now thus, the candidacy of his namesake and only son is in peril.

  • Fulpol

    i think, importation is not viable option… there is a bigger industry that will settle the fear of smokers: smuggling…

    bigger than the legitimate one, the importer.

    • Emmanouel

      Nabubulol si Drilon sa pagpaliwanag sa bloated figures niya sa sin tax.  Hindi niya
      kasi alam mismo kung ano ginagawa niya. Boooo Drilon!

  • joshmale2004

    enrile has a point here. If we increase tax only for local tobacco especially the cheapest ones. there will come a time in the future where imported cigarettes might kill our local tobacco industry and this is not good for our economy as a whole.Chances also that in a few years time, imported cigars might become cheaper than our local products.

    • suburbanmother

      i guess you’re right-it’s not good for our economy. mawawalan ng negosyo ang mga pharma industries who are selling drugs for smoking related diseases, private hospitals whose patients are suffering from smoking related diseases, tobacco industry, etc…never mind na people will have many health problems, after all okay naman ang economy, di ba?

      • joshmale2004

        You got me wrong lol. when I say not good for our economy, I am referring to our local manufacturers being killed by influx of imported cigars which may in the end more cheaper than the highly taxed local cigars. The effect, the government killed this local industry sector but will not diminish usage of cigar consumption as the population will just shift from local to imported. Once the shift happens, then there will be no local tobacco tax to be collected in the long run. Importers and smugglers will be rich to the detriment of local tobacco growers but consumption and health of the public remains the same. I hope you got my point well. Bottomline, we should also increase taxes and customs fees for imported cigars to commensurate with the local tax being passed if we really want to protect the public’s health and at the same time will not create an imbalance to our economy.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3UAABFPUE5ZKBXOAGLWL6POGWU joel genese

      For me, It doesnt really matter if it will hurt or even kill the local tobacco industry. So the tobacco farmers will shift to planting edible grain/food. 

      • joshmale2004

        If the effect is for our growers to shift and increase and develop our food production then I am with you.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AEOVNNFIDPMJDO4VQ4UCJMSEG4 meg

    HUWAG TAYONG MANIWALA KAY Mr. Enrile sa lahat ng kanyang sinasabi. Baka tinalaga si mr Enrile na SPOKESPERSON ng mga Cigarette at Alcohol companies. WE SUPPORT Sin Tax Bill! WE SUPPORT PNOY! Taasan ang buwis sa sigarilyo at alak para wala nang manigarilyo na nakakadulot ng sakit! Dapat gawing RAILROAD ni Mr Enrile ang SIN TAX Bill! gaya ng ginagawa nya sa Camarines.

    • Guest

      Pikon na pikon si Drilon kay Marcos dahil di siya tantanan ng tanong sa sin tax measure. Hirap kasing i-explain ang bloated figures n’ya ng sin tax.

  • eirons1043

    This sin tax bill will only make Lucio richer than his wildest dream.  Have you heard about smuggling from the inside?  Lucio can easily manufacture cigarettes clandestinely complete with ” imported” stamps and make it appear as smuggled cigarettes. Smuggling is a given once the sin tax of whatever version is passed.

  • My mom

    IN Singapore, sin tax collections continued to fall even after the city-state stopped all tax hikes. The damage caused by severe tax increases is permanent. Malaysia imposed steep tobacco tax hikes and quickly became the center of Asia’s cigarette black market with contraband cigarettes patronized by four of six smokers. If sin taxes backfires in the Philippines because of complications triggered by the most outrageous tax hike in the world, government will impose income tax increases that will make smokers and non-smokers, drinkers and non-drinkers alike pay for irreparable losses.

  • Ommm

    With the government touting the health benefits of forcing the people to quit smoking…and at the same time projecting P60 billion in additional income….they just MUST have some secret demographic  feasibility study the public is just not seeing…

    Some study that suggests perhaps 41.5% will quit while the remainder will carry on puffing. Otherwise any fool could see that the golden cow would soon run out of milk.

    This figure is no doubt based upon viable disposable income and allows them to use the heartfelt term “youth” as an excuse for their logic. Most youth have very limited incomes as do the poor. The percentage is probably reflective of those two groups, with the remainder being higher income or rich. The want and need this group to smoke and drink, otherwise they would lose the present P50 billion they do enjoy.

    Our president was elected by the poor. The governments own statistics claim this is the group that smokes and drinks the most. Easily understandable as they have few other pleasures in life. In fact most can’t even voice their opinions here as they have no PC’s or internet. When they are shocked by the reality of these tax hikes they will certainly feel betrayed by the man they elected.

    That man will continue to sit puffing away as he has proclaimed no urge to quit. As he and the legislators all make over 1 million a year, their own vices will not be effected. Yet they will have alienated the sector that trusted them most and managed to move one giant step forward toward a total class society.

    Do these poor who are economically excluded from enjoying our proliferation of new malls and condos or wasteful SUV’s deserve to have a smoke and a drink to drown their sorrows? Will they be the picture of health once squeezed out of their vices and dawn suits and begin trading shares on the stock market? In a country that requires a high school diploma to get a job pumping gas, that is unlikely.

    As this government seems to be getting beat up by the catholic church and not being able to pass the RH bill…my bet is the non smoking, non drinking “poor” will be using this new found energy to make lots more babies.    


    • http://profile.yahoo.com/YDONGSOZG2CKOBHNWCCFEF6QBQ Peace man!

      @Ommm:disqus So we will just let them puff more smoke drink some bad-ass alcohol since they’re poor and miserable and when they get sick just ask the government to pay for healthcare and then the government will use my taxes for that?

      That’s bad-ass thinking dude! rock n roll!

  • nizgoda

    the best solution to the problem- quit smoking.

    • Guest

      Gusto nganga ni Drilon pagbotohan na ang sin tax sa Monday or Wednesday. Talagang
      niraratsada na ni Sen. Boyba!

  • Magsasaka

    pukang nang batas yan, local lalagyan ng buwis para ano?para mas magiging mababa ang presyo ng mga imported na yosi, ayos talaga mga ginagawang batas dito sa atin laging sa protection ng foreign interest.

    • Guest

      Sen. Drilon is a former Labor Secretary, ex-Justice Secretary. Matalino raw. Pero kay Bongbong Marcos, di pala siya uubra eh. Sisiw si Drilon!

      • Magsasaka

        anong sisiw baboy kamo hehehe

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/YDONGSOZG2CKOBHNWCCFEF6QBQ Peace man!

      @antonioluna:disqus Sounds like you’ve read the Sin Tax Bill thoroughly……. NOT!
      or you must be an employer of tobacco industry or much worst a rebel living in the mountain area! Get out from mountain sometimes and feel the bad-ass smell of city smokes! Rock on commies!

      • Magsasaka

        i’m a smoker you pc. of sh!t

  • akoombulator

    ayos Ito mababawasan ang mga ash tray breath

  • huseng_batute

    E bakit hindi dagdagan nyo rin ang tax ng imported na sigarilyo?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3UAABFPUE5ZKBXOAGLWL6POGWU joel genese

      Ayon kay Enrile, baka nga daw hindi naaayon sa GATT kung lalakihan din ang import tax. Pero ganun pa man, para sa akin, mas maganda na ring mamatay ang local tobacco industry para imbes na tabako ang itanim ng mga magsasaka ay mga butil na lang na pwedeng kainin.

  • jtpa

    Toinks! The GATT’s focus is to lift trade barriers like Tariff and entry taxes and Sin tax is not considered a trade barrier.  Sin Tax is actually a tax to discourage the usage of a particular item rather than to protect local players, it should cover all brands local and imported.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NPV7TOHIJPG3UMTLQDTHLQJR7Y Jack

    if you smoke, you die. if you don’t smoke you die too. 

    sin tax or no sin tax, we all die

  • kilabot

    if the intention is to reduce fatalities caused by liquor/cigarette, which is effective?
    1) pass any form of sin tax – genius way;
    2) ban liquor and cigarette – common sense way;
    3) convince noykapon to quit smoking/drinking, hoping yellow insects will follow – abnoying way;

    if the issue is revenue, why not include marijuana and shabu as taxable sins? both have the same effect as liquor and cigarette.

    • ah_ok_fine12

      marijuana and shabu is not available in any convenience sari sari store.

  • iping2sison

    GATT signatory countries like Australia had imposed hefty tax on tobacco as well as other forms of restrictions. Sin tax is definitely for all kinds of tobacco products and liquor/spirits, locally produced or foreign.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZYQ3ZKMZZXSK5B5HO3GQAERSJQ cookai m

    imports should be covered in the measure

  • ah_ok_fine12

    sin tax should be both applicable for local and imported liq and cigs.

  • duviz7533

    paguusapan pa ba ng mga ungoy sa senado  yan..isama na lang nila ang imported alcohol and tobacco  tapos na ang usapan…puro palusot ang nakikita ng bayan ngayon sa issue na yan

  • mxgdyqt8069

    Hindi kaya may relasyon si Drilon at Kim Henares. Super sweet kasi sila sa Senado kapag nag-uusap about sin tax. Multuhin sana siya ng asawa nya!

  • disqusted0fu

    instead of a win-win situation, this bill will kill local manufacturers of cigarettes and liquor, which will again cause the number of unemployed rise.

    the only thing we can do with these vices is to lessen them, but if we were to do that, we have to make sure that it does not affect local companies.

    it seems like the administration and the senate only care about getting more taxes from the people for them to possibly corrupt.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/YDONGSOZG2CKOBHNWCCFEF6QBQ Peace man!

      Other developed nations already had this implemented decades ago and we didn’t witness the downfall of their great nation! 

      I’m a smoker but I campaign for a higher taxes on cigarette! If they can make it like 300 pesos per pack that would be awesome! No more cigarettes for minors or street children or those elementary and high school students! 

  • jinx

    This sin tax bill is another form of hypocrisy. Ilang beses na ba natin inattempt pigilin mga tao sa paninigarilyo? Nariyan na ang yosi-kadiri, nariyan na ang slogang “cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health,” at  nariyan na morbid pictures dahil sa paninigarilyo. Tinaasan na rin natin ang tax diyan noon. Pero  walang nangyayari dahil mga tao lalo lang nanggigil pag pinipigil. I am not a layer, smoker pala. Pero mas nakakatakot ang consequence pag lalo natin nirerepress ang lifestyle ng mga tao. Ang mas mabuti nating gawin ay pilitin ang mga gusali o mga workplaces na laging may areas exclusively for smokers at bawal sa kanila manigarilyo sa harap ng non-smokers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/maro.nagao Maro Nagao

      Hindi po pinipigil ng bill na ito na manigarilyo ang isang tao. Pagbabayarin lang nila ng mas mataas na tax kung sila ay bibili ng sigarilyo (or any sin products). Though this would discourage others to smoke, it is not its main purpose. =)

  • El_Gran_Capitan

    Hu tama na JPE, may hidden agenda ka kasi

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3X63ERZIWTOMAG3YCZLV4WBKU4 eric

    just tax the church instead and get it over with. it’s going to amount to the same $$$ anyway. and there’s no need to change the name “sin tax”, it suits them perfectly, the way they are acting these past couple of hundred of years.

  • basilionisisa

    there will always be negatives! but if it is still cheapest, including the tax, in asia, saka na pag-usapan later ang tariff ng imported kung hindi covered ngayon, or else walang katapusang cycle yan. important thing is to APPROVE the bill now. many LIVES will be SAVED if not prolonged.

    PASS the Sin Tax Bill now!

  • cru03thik

    Sin Tax done how about Holy Tax for the churches?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GYYFBINDMTZHM6TDHPB667452M agustin


  • Tetchiete

    Ang taasan ng tax at mas dapat I police ay mga alak. Think about it, has there been criminal cases because of over smoking? Eh yong mga karumal-dumal na krimen gaya ng murder at rape, etc, minsan ay nagagawa dahil sa kalasingan.

  • CrispinBasilio

    “The Aquino administration is aiming for a 60-percent increase in taxes of sin products once Congress passes the measure aimed at curbing alcohol and cigarette addiction among Filipinos and, at the same time, increasing revenue.” 

    If the government is hell bent on curbing nicotine and alcohol addiction, why can’t it simply stop the production and selling of these products. However, it will still allow production and marketing but with higher taxes resulting to higher prices. The government becomes the middleman of the drug pusher selling an addict his fix but for a higher price. 

    And JPE is right. What about those imported cigarettes? 

  • CesarPalmaIII

    “Even with the passage of the law, cigarettes in the country will still have the lowest price in Asia,”. And we should be proud of this? This is a pathetic attempt of the government to raise more money. And why is cigarettes being targeted? If it indeed is harmful, only those who are smokers are affected. Second hand smoke is not anymore an issue. Smoking is banned in public places. How about those liquors being sold at unbelievably cheap prices? Is the government not concern about it? What are its components? I bet these are more harmful than cigarettes. 

  • CrispinBasilio

    Sin tax? Is it a sin against the government for people to smoke? If it is, can be people be punished? If not, then why bother against it? The government must not make an actual stand on this and that is to allow or not to allow smoking. Not the current stand wherein it knows that smoking is hazardous yet still allow people to do it. Raising taxes on cigarettes will only lead to more problems later. 

    By the way, why is it that the market has forever been flooded with those ultra cheap brandies as well as whiskeys and the government is not doing anything against it? These products causes intoxication and always lead to fights and criminal acts. 

  • mitch ilano

    The corrupt and or incompetent officials in our government seems to aspire to wipe out the entire Filipino industry by imposing bills and measures that tends to favor imported ones as long as they can channel funds straight to fatten up their pockets. Never mind that these bills have not been thoroughly studied on. Never mind that the chairman of the ways and means committee have obviously never studied this in depth. Never mind that these legislators seems to lack the knowledge about the proposed excise tax hikes. Never mind the 3 million tobacco industry workforce and families that may lose their jobs.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos