Cigarette smuggling siphons off taxes that fund health care – solon
MANILA, Philippines — Cigarette smuggling causes the government to lose an estimated P30 billion to P60 billion to excise taxes, according to Ilocos Sur Second District Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan, citing data from Albay Rep. Joey Salceda.
“With the smuggling, actually, we are losing more in the collection of tobacco taxes,” Singson-Meehan said in an interview with reporters on Saturday.
“The excise tax on cigarettes is P170 billion. So you have P150 billion of that going to healthcare, the universal healthcare program. That where it all goes,” Candon City Mayor Eric Singson said in Filipino,
According to the National Economic and Development Authority, taxation on tobacco and other similar products successfully raised revenue for the Universal Health Care program in 2022.
Candon City is home to 1,500 tobacco farmers who depend on the crop for livelihood. However, both the demand and production of tobacco have been on the decline, according to Singson.
Singson said that there had been efforts to transition the farmers to producing other agricultural products, but they keep going back to tobacco for being a hig- value crop.
“They would agree at first: ‘Let us try.” Not all, but a few — but we have to compel them. But their profits were not what they used to be,” Singson said.
Tobacco farmers have been able to send their children to schools on their earnings, many of them graduating as professionals, added Singson.
Singson-Meehan has expressed support for House Bill 3917, filed by Ilocos Norte First District Rep. Ferdinand “Sandro” A. Marcos III, which proposes the inclusion of tobacco products in the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.
“Tobacco is one of the main industries too. It needs to be considered as a crop, right? Because there’s that question before that it was not defined. So with this bill, they are including tobacco as part of the agri commodities,” she said.
If passed, the bill would provide stiffer penalties for cigarette smugglers, including a fine twice the value of smuggled tobacco products and a prison term of 14 to 17 years.