Former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz backed moves in Congress to raise sin taxes.
In his radio program, Cruz lauded House Bill No. 4144 as a “pro-health” measure.
The bill aims to increase excise tax rate from P30 to P32 per pack on low-end cigarette packs and P36 for premium brands priced 11.50 and above. It also imposes 5 percent annual increase beginning 2018, up from the original 4 percent in the current law.
“It is the government’s duty to protect the health of its citizens aside from raising revenues,” the prelate said.
He cited data from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) that 10 Filipinos die every hour from smoking-related diseases.
Cruz stressed that the government’s objective is to ultimately stop smoking.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it [HB 4144] because it discourages smokers. It’s okay because the poor end up saving their money instead of spending it on vices such as cigarettes and alcohol,” Cruz said in his Veritas Patrol interview.
Archbishop Emeritus Diosdado Talamayan of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao also commended lawmakers for passing the bill.
He noted that the measure also helps local farmers.
“The Northern region is a tobacco-rich province where many farmers depend on the crop to improve the lives of their families,” he said.
Economist Frank Chaloupka, an internationally respected scientist in the area of tobacco control, said smoking is most prevalent among the poor sectors of society.
His research has consistently demonstrated that increases in the price of tobacco products reduces the number of smokers and cuts the amount of tobacco products that remaining smokers consume.
Nobel prize winning economist Gary S. Becker and his colleagues, Michael Grossman and Kevin M. Murphy demonstrated in their study as early as 30 years ago that the youth and poor are particularly sensitive to price increases.
The youth sector fall under the zero to low-income category because some do not have work or had just started work, and the others are not yet fully settled to be financially independent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also subscribes to the general consensus among policymakers that raising tobacco taxes reduces cigarette consumption.
In 2015, the government raked in P141.84 billion in revenues from sin taxes, part of which was used by PhilHealth to expand its coverage to include 14.7 million poor Filipinos.