THE huge revenues earned by the government from “sin” products last year is a good sign that the implementation of the Sin Tax Reform Law has been effective, but apart from collection the government must now make sure that the revenues will be used based on what the law has prescribed.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos insisted that tax increments made possible by the reformed sin tax law, should trickle down to the intended beneficiaries including the tobacco farmers who were identified as among the direct beneficiaries of the revenues and increments.
“It’s very clear in the law that tobacco farmers should receive a certain percentage from the revenues out of the excise tax collection from tobacco products. If the law is very clear on that, the government should make sure that the farmers will get their entitlement,” Marcos said.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) earlier announced that excise tax collection from tobacco and alcohol products from January to November last year reached P91.6 billion exceeding the 2013 target of P85.5 billion.
Marcos noted that under Republic Act 10351 or the Sin Tax Reform Act, the government will allot certain percentage of the incremental revenue collected for the promotion of alternative livelihood for tobacco farmers and workers.
Currently, there are about 53,892 farmers who, together with their families, source their primary livelihood from the tobacco industry.
Section 8 of RA 10351 provides that: “Fifteen percent (15%) of the incremental revenue collected from the excise tax on tobacco products under R.A. NO. 8240 shall be collected and divided among the provinces producing burley and native tobacco in accordance with the volume of tobacco leaf production.”
The fund will be exclusively used to promote alternatives for tobacco farmers and workers like programs that will support farmers who shift to production of other agricultural products or commercial crops.
The allocation will also be used for to assist displaced tobacco farmers, infrastructure projects like farm to market roads, and agro-industrial projects that will enable them to be involved in the management and subsequent ownership of projects such as post-harvest and secondary processing like cigarette manufacturing and by-product utilization.
But Senator Pia Cayetano, one of the proponents of the Sin tax reform law, disclosed that until now the government has not crafted the implementing rules and regulation (IRR) governing the earmarking of funds from incremental revenues.
Cayetano, said that the delay on the crafting of the IRR, could also delay the release of needed funds intended for public health services, universal health care, alternative livelihoods to tobacco farmers and workers.
“These are clear delays and violations of the law. The Department of Budget and Management, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Department of Finance owe the people and the Congress an explanation where the billions in sin tax collections are going,” Cayetano earlier said.
Meanwhile, employees of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC) has called on
legislators to immediately file a bill that will repeal RA 10351 and correct the “institutional injustice” inflicted by the Aquino government against their ranks.
Rodelito Atienza, president of the PPMFTC labor union at the same time said that proponents of the sin tax law clearly deceived them when they said that the enactment of the tax measure will not lead to joblessness.
“The legislators lied through their teeth during the deliberations of the tax measure. Workers’ families are now saddled with budgetary constrains because the sin tax law deprived us of a decent and productive employment for the next five months because of their lies,” Atienza said.
Atienza called the tax measure fundamentally unjust law for its pass-on character and has already placed their jobs in grave peril as their company recently implemented a five month deduction of work days due to its declining yet still significant market share.
The employees also challenged lawmakers who supported the passage of the sin tax law to prove that job losses are avoidable under a burdensome Sin tax law.
“All we did was toil as hard as possible and yet we are helplessly forced into predicament not of our choice. The government is satisfied with its taxes and the corporations have their profits, but why are the ones to suffer, he added. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA