Archbishop Sergio Utleg, D.D. of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao has commended lawmakers for passing a measure that considers the plight of tobacco farmers.
The archbishop was referring to House Bill (HB) 4144, which seeks to amend the current unitary excise tax system into a two-tier excise system where the main proponent ABS party list Rep. Eugene Michael de Vera cited tobacco farmers as the main inspiration for the bill among other objectives.
“Many of our followers are lowly tobacco farmers whose only source of livelihood is dependent on the crop,” Utleg said.
He added that the pro-poor measure gives many of these farmers time to transition into other sources of livelihood, especially once the farmers’ dependents grow up and start to carve out their own careers.
Prominent church officials earlier lauded lawmakers for the amendment, saying it encourages the poor to shun vices.
In his radio program, the vocal Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz praised HB 4144 as a “pro-health” bill whose objective is to ultimately stop vices and urge citizens to spend their money on more important needs.
Cruz said it is the government’s duty to protect the health of its citizens aside from raising revenues.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas also praised the bill for its versatility in tackling multiple issues, particularly in being pro-health, pro-poor and pro-local tobacco farmers as he seconded his predecessor’s statements.
“Our lawmakers apparently considered balancing several objectives in crafting the bill which is a very difficult task,” Villegas said.
Cagayan Archbishop Emeritus Diosdado Talamayan also supported lawmakers on the bill since it helps Filipino tobacco farmers with their livelihood.
Alamino (Pangasinan) Bishop Ricardo Baccay noted that the bill urges Filipinos to shun vices and instead use the money intended for a cigarette pack for additional savings.
Based on Department of Finance data, portions of massive revenues generated by the sin tax law are earmarked for both public healthcare and welfare of tobacco farmers.