According to records from the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four Filipinos die from heart disease, stroke or another non-communicable disease (NCD) before the age of 70. Many of those deaths can be prevented, if people can obtain the health services they need.
Although there is a Universal Health Care (UHC) program in place to ensure that every Filipino receives affordable and quality health care, huge funding that’s required to support it puts an immense strain on government resources. To ensure the financial sustainability of the UHC program, a first-class law is needed to support the inpatient and outpatient coverage of all Filipino families.
Dual strategy: Curbing consumption while funding UHC
Early on, the government has earmarked the raising of excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco and nicotine vapor products as priority legislation to fund the full implementation of the UHC, under a model that allocates sin tax revenue towards health programs.
Among the tax reform packages under the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), the Package 2+ (P2+) or the Sin Tax Reform Bill focuses on hiking excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes to discourage consumption and ultimately reduce the incidence of illness caused by these vices. It is hoped that this will meaningfully encourage better lifestyle choices and generate sufficient revenues for implementing universal health care.
Both the Department of Finance ( DOF) and the Department of Health (DOH) have pushed to propose the increase in excise tax rates for alcoholic beverages, heated tobacco products (HTPs) and vapor products. The revenue collected from this measure will help sustain 100 percent PhilHealth coverage for Filipino families and provide adequate outpatient check-ups and medicine. It would also discourage excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption among the youth and poor.
Youth groups support sin tax reform
A broad and diverse coalition of young people — students, health advocates, community leaders — support higher sin taxes, citing the proposal’s positive health, economic, and fiscal impacts. In support of these reforms, they yearn for the bill to be passed into legislation before the end of the 18th Congress.
“We support progressive health reforms l ike the Universal Health Care Law… This we believe is achievable by imposing a significant tax rate on sin products like tobacco, e-cigarettes and alcohol in order to raise much- needed revenue for UHC, while reducing prevalence of smoking and binge-drinking especially among youth,” expresses Youth for Sin Tax.
“We reiterate our support for the Package 2+ in its entirety, for this will allow us to make a significant investment in our country’s health, and ultimately, the nation’ s long-term development,” explains the National Capital Region (NCR) chapter of the National Federation of Junior Philippine Institute of Accountants (NFJPIA).
“The sin tax bill is an advantageous measure insofar as public health and fiscal health are concerned,” says the Junior Philippine Economics Society (JPES).
“The proposed measure under Package 2+ will provide policy-level interventions that will lead to significant health and societal impact.
This will further secure the necessary funding for the full implementation of UHC. We affirm the need for the full implementation of UHC that will cater to the health and medical needs of all Filipinos, especially those who cannot afford quality and reliable health-care services,” shares Youth Alliance for Health Reforms (YAHR).
“We, Sangguniang Kabataan officials of Guinobatan, Albay, express our full support for the measures to impose higher taxes on alcohol and e-cigarette products as part of our mandate to prevent young people from abusing dangerous and addictive substances,” comments the youth organization.
“Higher taxes on alcohol makes it less accessible to all, which will not just benefit us financially but also psychologically,” explains the Youth for Mental Health Coalition. “Our members support the proposals to tax alcohol products at a level that truly discourages excessive consumption among the young,” adds the Bicol Youth Brigade.
“Additional funding for UHC through sin taxes can make crucially-needed mental health interventions more accessible,” concludes the Benilde Central Student Government.
This article was published in the Philippine Star on December 15, 2019.
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