GENERAL SANTOS CITY, November 13, 2012 – “Too late to fight sin tax bill,” declared Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago in a news report of the same title (Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 13, 2012).
Santiago was responding to the threat of the PhilTobacco Growers Association that its members would campaign against six senators running for reelection who support the bill. Santiago was also warning that the Philippines would break its commitment in 2005 to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – a treaty negotiated under the World Trade Organization — if the Congress fails to pass the bill.
The Senate ratified FCTC in 2005, now an international law obliging the Philippines to uphold FCTC’s objective in raising taxes on tobacco products, that is: “Reduce the prevalence of smoking to eventually decrease government spending on healthcare costs from tobacco-related diseases”.
Sin taxes are on tobacco and alcohol products. The pending bill is intended to raise P40 billion to P45 billion additional revenue in 2013.
The PDI called Santiago’s declaration a warning. In reality, isn’t it a comedy dramatized to generate more money for the government and the tobacco and alcohol industries? Look at it. Even before the FCTC, taxes on tobacco products had been repeatedly raised for the same reasons — and so were the taxes on alcohol products. Were smoking and drinking and diseases related to tobacco and alcohol reduced?
To kill the sin tax bills, opposition from the tobacco and alcohol industries had always warned their industries would die, thousands of workers would lose employment and government would lose its sources of revenue. It’s like the turtle in the legend pleading to the monkey not to throw it into the pond.
At whatever cost, tobacco and alcohol users would never stop smoking or drinking – not even reduce the number of packs of cigarettes and cases of beer or bottles of intoxicating drinks consumed daily. That has been and will ever be the fact.
The sin taxes are passed on to the “sinners”. The tobacco and alcohol industries don’t lose their profits. Don’t be moved by turtle’s or crocodile’s tears. In fact, they increase their profits. The higher their gross income, the more revenues the government collects.
If cigarettes and intoxicating drinks are bad for the health of Filipinos, raising sin taxes is not the remedy even if done often. The only remedy is for the Congress to outlaw the tobacco and alcohol industries – prohibiting, not subsidizing, the planting of tobacco and stopping all traffic of tobacco and alcohol products. A tobacco-free and alcohol-free society will not worry about diseases related to tobacco and alcohol; government will not spend any centavo on these diseases.
To Congress, stop the comedy! In all honesty and seriousness, what really is the intention in raising sin taxes? Is it to protect the health of Filipinos or to generate more revenues with the cooperation of tobacco and alcohol industries at the expense of tobacco and alcohol “sinners”? – (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)