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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, February 4, 2019
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Senate to deliberate
on tobacco tax hike


MANILA - The Senate ways and means committee will hold its next hearing on proposals seeking to increase the excise tax on tobacco products today.

Senate Bill 1599, filed by Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, seeks to increase the current cigarette tax rate from P30 per pack to P60 per pack. This is aside from the annual increase of 9 percent from the current 4 percent increase in excise tax per year.

Senator Sonny Angara, committee chairman, said the panel would look into the capacity of the Department of Health in implementing the universal health care (UHC) as a basis of the final amount or rate for the tobacco taxation.

“We’re looking at it not just from revenue side but from the spending side. We don’t want to waste funds. Our government agencies may just be asking for funds but can’t spend these,” Angara said in a statement.

He is targeting to sponsor the measure on the plenary before Congress adjourns its session on Wednesday.

However, for Senate President Vicente Sotto III, there is "no chance" for the tobacco tax bill to reach plenary, noting that it could be tackled once sessions resume.

In December last year, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III pushed for the increase in the current tobacco excise tax rates to levels that would effectively curb smoking and also help supplement funds for the UHC program.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque earlier said smoking prevalence in the country would be lowered from 21.6 percent of the population down to a target of 15.7 percent.

Based on DOH’s latest estimates, tobacco taxes pegged at P90 per pack could avert 1 million tobacco-attributable deaths.

Also in December 2018, the House of Representatives approved House Bills (HBs) 8677 and 8618, which increase the tax on cigarettes and alcoholic drinks, respectively.

HB 8677 seeks to increase excise tax rates for tobacco by P2.50 every year, starting July 2019 until 2022.*PNA


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