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‘Sin tax hike ensures fund for healthcare’

The enactment of the bill imposing additional excise taxes on alcohol products, heated tobacco and vapor products will guarantee that the funding gap for the implementation of the Universal Health Law, or affordable and better health care service for Filipinos, is addressed, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said on Thursday.

Romualdez, chairman of the House committee on rules, made the statement after the chamber approved on second reading Wednesday night House Bill 1026, which increases the excise tax rates on the so-called sin products.

He thanked his fellow legislators for the swift passage of the measure.  

“This will help additional funding to sustain PhilHealth coverage for all Filipino families, improve accessibility, affordability, and quality of health care, and provide a better outpatient benefit package, Romualdez said.

The House is expected next week to approve on third and final reading Package 2 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program with the inclusion of heated tobacco and vapor products in its coverage.

Last Wednesday, the House approved House Bill 1026 in a viva voce voting.  The bill originally covered additional taxes on alcohol products.

The House committee on ways and means said the government was expected to generate P32.94 billion in  revenues in the first year of implementation of the measure once enacted.

The Finance department estimates that the revenue from fermented liquor, or beer, is estimated to reach P24.7 billion; distilled spirits, P9.2 billion; and wines P40 million. 

The revenue from the additional taxes on alcohol will finance the proposed Universal Health Care  Act. 

Romualdez said the government needed P257 billion for the first year of the implementation of the UHC law in 2020. 

“An equally important objective of the bill is to discourage the excessive consumption of alcohol products, especially among the youth,” Romualdez said. 

“Excessive alcohol drinking leads to diseases like cirrhosis of the liver  and pancreatitis, among others. Moreover, alcohol-drinking leads to bad behavior like drunk driving and domestic violence.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay, chairman of the House ways and means committee, said the passage of HB 1026, or the Package 2 Plus B of the CTRP, would generate P17 billion in revenues, which was lower than the version of the Finance and Health departments.

“I have to stand for the House version. If they [Finance] want a higher tax they should come back here and justify it,” Salceda said. 

“But if the bicameral comes up with a higher rate, then I have to justify it to the members and leadership of the House...it happens many times that the House approves lower and the Senate approves higher, and we ended up something in the middle which is usually higher than the House.

“I told [Finance] if you wanted a higher rate [as provided in its version], then we need go to the entire process again. We will start from the start. Time is more important here. If that happens, we will allow the lobby groups again in the committee hearings.”

Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua said his department would ask the support of the

senators to adopt its original version aimed at generating P32.94 billion in the first year of implementation.

Topics: Universal Health Law , Martin Romualdez , Karl Chua , Sin tax , Joey Salceda

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