Use new sin tax to fund universal health care -- Drilon

Franklin Drilon

SENATOR Franklin Drilon is encouraging his colleagues in the Senate to use the money that will be generated by the new sin tax law to help fund the Universal Health Law that requires P257 billion in its first year of implementation.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure before it adjourns next week after it was certified urgent by the President.

Drilon said that the funds to be generated under the new measure, estimated at around P15 billion, would not even be enough to support the UHC program.

Of the P257 billion first year budget, only P195 billion would come from the General Appropriations Act of 2019.

“Given the huge funding requirement of the UHC program and other health needs of millions of poor Filipinos, we have to prioritize and make clear in the law where these new funds we expect to raise will go. The health of our people should be our number one priority,” Drilon said.

Drilon’s proposal would in effect freeze the entitlement to the sin tax law of tobacco-producing provinces under Republic Act 7171. Under the said law, local government units that produce Virginia-type cigarettes would receive 15-percent share of the tax collection.

The senator clarified, however, that the allocation due these tobacco-producing provinces under the current law will not be affected.

Drilon however said there appears to be “inequitable and grossly disproportionate” allocation under RA 7171.

A report by the Action for Economic Reforms based on the 2017 General Appropriations Act shows that while the value of tobacco production is at P3.8 billion, the earmarked funds amount to P14.4 billion under R.A. 7171 and P3.61 billion under R.A. 8240 or a total of P18.01billion, he noted.

“Tobacco excise tax collection allocated for the tobacco-growing regions is more than four times bigger than the value of tobacco production in 2017,” Drilon said.

Yet, he lamented, the tobacco farmers remain among the poorest sectors in our country today.

“I hope that this inequity will be addressed in the next Congress,” he added.

Bigger fund source

Sentor Panfilo “Ping” Lacson suggested to the government “to tax all the sins of congressmen and senators.”

“Sin Tax: If only we can tax all the sins of congressmen and senators, we can collect more than enough to cover the entire national budget,” Lacson wrote in a Twitter post on Thursday.

The comment was made as the Senate deliberated on the proposed new sin tax bill that seeks to impose additional tax on tobacco products after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure before the 17th Congress adjourns on June 7.

“Di ba may Sin Tax kaming dine-deliberate? Sabi ko OK yan kasi health measure naman yan sa UHC (Universal Health Care),” he said in an interview over dzBB.

“Baka pwede tingnan natin ang tax base leakages kasi (ang) leakages na nagmula sa corruption o incompetence o inefficiency (ang) mas malaki…” Lacson added.

While he welcomed the intent of the new sin tax measure, which is to fund the universal healthcare program, Lacson lamented that imposing new tax seems to have become the immediate solution resorted to whenever there is a need for funding.