MANILA — A local health advocacy group is urging the Senate to act on bills calling for the passage of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law and to ensure the plan’s funding by also approving bills raising the taxes on cigarettes.
“The ball is now on the court of the Senate to respond to the appeal of the Department of Health to pass the Universal Health Care, and on the Senate committee on ways and means to make sure funding is sustainable that will come from the tobacco tax increase,” Emer Rojas, a cancer survivor and president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) said in a statement recently.
New Vois is a cancer prevention and tobacco control advocacy group based in the Philippines.
The cancer survivors joined the DOH in calling for the Senate to take immediate action to ensure the success of the UHC through tobacco taxes.
Cigarette tax bills have been filed at the Senate Ways and Means Committee led by Senator Sonny Angara since last year.
Now, the DOH is appealing for funding to be made available for UHC.
“The people, especially the poor, are looking forward to the expansion of free and quality health services that the UHC may provide, but this will not become a reality without financing from tobacco tax increase,” Rojas said.
Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque supported Senate Bill 1605 authored by Senator JV Ejercito, proposing an increase in the cigarette tax to PHP90 pesos per pack in the first year, followed by a 9-percent increase per year after the first year.
Based on the DOH’s computation, the bill will result in incremental revenue collection of about PHP37.2 billion in the first year.
In another press conference, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the DOF is supporting the bill of Senator Manny Pacquiao to increase tobacco tax by PHP60 pesos per pack in the first year, and by 9 percent per year, thereafter.
Rojas believes the Senate must now act on the pending tobacco tax bills, simultaneously with the UHC bill, to ensure the health of the people.
“The time is now for the Senate take action on tobacco tax, since it is a sustainable source of funds for UHC. Panahonna, ngayonna (the time in now)!” Rojas added.
The Ejercito and Pacquiao bills are still pending at the Senate Ways and Means Committee. (PR)