Proposed tobacco tax to benefit health care — Duque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) —  Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the proposed tobacco excise tax increase will generate more revenue for the government's health care program and at the same time encourage Filipinos to be health conscious.

Duque made the statement in a media briefing Wednesday, in relation to the passage of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Bill, a measure certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The proposed tax increase will help fund the proposed Universal Health Care system, once it is signed into law.

"To make the UHC (Universal Health Care) feasible, we are looking at the proposed increase in tobacco tax particularly to cover the premium payment of the non-contributory sector," Duque said in the presser.

"Not only will it increase the funding for UHC, tobacco taxes are also estimated to reduce smoking prevalence- thereby translating to lower number of cases of cancer and non-communicable diseases, which are the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the country," he added.

Duque said the officials are supporting the proposal to raise tobacco excise tax to 90 pesos from 35 pesos per cigarette pack.

He, however, said Congress still has the final decision on the suggested tax increase.

"Kung maipapasa, at sana naman ay maipasa ang 90 pesos na panukala ay malaking tulong ito sa pagtustos ng ating programa ng PhilHealth."

(Translation: If the P90 increase is approved, and hopefully it will be approved, it will be a big help for our program in PhilHealth.)

The government, through Republic Act 10351 or the Sin Tax Reform Law, aims to finance the Universal Health Care program by increasing excise taxes on tobacco and alcoholic products, among others.

Wise investment

Duque said universal health care can be costly, but will be a good investment in the long run.

"Funding universal health requires significant investment from the government. I would like to highlight, however, that investing in UHC is actually a wise investment, because it is investing in our people," he said.

The Health Secretary said the program will not entirely rely on the excise taxes tobacco and alcohol, but will also gather from other tariffs imposed by the government.

Proceeds will go to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to cover premium payment of members. This will sustain full coverage for the citizens, according to the Health Department.

Duque said once signed into law, the UHC bill will help reduce poverty by "protecting Filipinos from the high cost of health care."

Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address last month, urged lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the measure.