About 3,000 tobacco farmers, cigarette-factory workers and street vendors demonstrated in front of the Senate building in Pasay City on Tuesday to protest the proposed “sin tax” bill which would raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol products to raise P40-billion in additional government revenue.
Farmer groups and labor unions from Marikina, Rizal, Navotas and Bulacan started gathering at the Senate gates at 10 a.m.
As the final amendments were being set inside the Senate, the protesters put up a stage using a large trailer truck where five members of different labor groups entertained the crowd with songs.
“Ang hirap talaga ng buhay ngayon (life is really hard nowadays)” sang one band vocalist, encouraging rallyists gathered around the stage to dance and sing along with them.
Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PFMTC) labor union executive officer Danny Bataller said about 80 representatives from various labor and farmer groups attended the final debate and argument on the bill.
“Some ‘takatak’ boys (street cigarette vendors) were given the chance to hear the arguments of our lawmakers regarding the sin tax bill,” Bataller said.
He added that the street vendors would be among those greatly affected by the bill’s approval.
“This sin tax will increase the price of tobacco products, thus creating a domino effect on all those involved in the trade,” Battaler said.
He also noted that some cigarette-factory workers might lose their jobs, tobacco farmers might earn less than what they are presently earning and street vendors will lose a chance to earn.
“The passing of the bill can eventually lead to the death of the tobacco industry,” he said.
Jonathan Corpuz, a PFMTC member, said he and other factory workers have been struggling to work beyond normal working hours to earn extra for their family.
He said what they earned was still not enough to send their children to school and they feared the effects of increased sin taxes.
The People’s Coalition Against Regressive Taxation also urged lawmakers to give immediate attention not to the sin tax bill but to issues of the poor and the marginalized.