Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casino voted “no” on House Bill 3174 which seeks to increase the excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products. He claims to proposed law is “not serious” in its aim to increase tax revenues and prevent tobacco and alcohol use. He suspects his colleagues were pressured by the big players in the tobacco and alcohol industries intro railroading a kinder version of the proposed law. Because of this he was also unable to introduce an amendment that would seek to earmark for health and social services proceeds from the tax measure.
Here is his explanation:
At the outset, let me say that in principle, I am against the idea of raising taxes to solve the fiscal crisis. The fact that, by government figures alone, as much as P285 billion is lost each year to tax leakages, waived and uncollected taxes shows that the immediate solution lies in improving tax administration, not in imposing new taxes. This reality, coupled with the rampant graft and corruption, inefficiency and incompetence in government makes any new or additional tax immoral, unjust and reprehensible, especially if it is a regressive tax like this that hurts the poor the most.
But the worst cut of all, colleagues, Mr. Speaker, is that HB 3174 is not even serious in its twin aims of raising taxes and preventing tobacco and alcohol use. In my interpellation, it was admitted by the sponsors that this bill is a quick fix and a far cry from the original intent of restructuring and indexing the taxes on tobacco and alcohol products.
We will be collecting a mere P7 billion from an original target of P14 billion to P25 billion. I hate to say it, but it seems this House has succumbed to the pressures of the giant industry players as well as the international usurers who want this bill approved within the year.
As to preventing tobacco and alcohol use, that has proven to be nothing but propaganda. The fact is that smokers will continue smoking and drinkers will continue drinking especially since they will merely shift brands or just pay more for their vice. Objectively, government will even be happier with more smokers and more drinkers since this means more revenues.
Lastly, a saving grace to this bill, which would have been the earmarking of its proceeds to health and social services, an amendment I would have introduced, has become impossible with the railroading that happened this morning.
In light of all these, I vote NO to House Bill 3174. Thank you Mr. Speaker.