I vote no to House Bill No. 5727.
This measure is essentially a revenue-raising measure sugar-coated with health considerations. The main objective of the bill is to raise additional revenues of P31 billion for the government. Bonus na lang po kung ito’y makakabawas sa paninigarilyo ng ating mamamayan. In fact, once passed, I suspect the government will not want to reduce tobacco and alcohol intake because that would mean lower revenues.
As a tax, this is a regressive tax that will hit the poor the most. It is a tax imposed not on the rich tobacco and alcohol companies or even their distributors and retailers, but on the consumer, most of whom come from the poor. Ang tatamaan po nito ay ang mga mahihirap.
As a tax, this is disadvantageous to our local producers – tobacco farmers, workers in the tobacco and alcohol factories, haulers, distributors, sari-sari store owners, takatak boys. It is a tax being imposed at the behest of foreign tobacco and alcohol monopolies and their supporters in the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization. It seeks to remove whatever preferential treatment we have granted our Filipino entreprises. Para nating sinakal ang sarili nating lokal na industriya.
As a tax, this is an unecessary burden on the public. Why impose a new tax that will hit the poor and local industries when we have failed to collect some P180 billion in income taxes on professionals, P127 billion in customs duties due to smuggling, and some P50 billion in fiscal incentives to favored entities, mostly foreign companies? If we want to raise revenues, let us improve tax efficiency, not impose additional and regressive taxes.
On the health issue, if we really want our people to stop smoking, let us start with the President leading by example. Maybe it is time the President quit smoking so others will follow, just as it is time for him to sign a waiver on his bank accounts. Or perhaps we should start with passing the picture-based warnings on cigarette packs, a bill which I have authored since the 14th Congress and which has not moved an inch in the 15th Congress. Let us conduct a more aggressive campaign against smoking. Ibangon natin sa hukay si Yosi Kadiri. More education, more enlightenmentI and an aggressive campaign to ban smoking – these would be more effective in curbing smoking than an P11 hike in the price of a pack of cigarettes.
Huwag na ho natin pag-usapan ang pag-inom. The taxes as proposed will simply not deter drinking. It will, in fact, simply encourage the consumption of imported brands.
I know my vote will not sit well with my friends in the health sector, some of whom are in the gallery tonight. But I have to be true to my advocacy for lower taxes on the poor and for preferrential treatment for our local enterprises.
All things considered, this is a regressive tax we can do without. It is for this reason, Mr. Speaker, that I vote no to the measure.#
Delivered in plenary June 6, 2012