MANILA – Cabinet officials intensified their call to implement sin tax reforms, which is seen as the best way to generate the funds needed to realize government’s ambitious universal health care (UHC) program.
This was stressed by Finance secretary Carlos Dominguez and Health secretary Francisco Duque in a joint press conference at the Department of Finance (DOF) Friday held to push for the approval of Senate Bills 1599 and 2197, authored by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, which closely follows earlier proposals of the Finance and Health departments.
“The universal health care is designed to be funded by the sin taxes so if the bill is not passed…then we cannot fully implement the UHC,” Dominguez said.
Under SB 1599, the additional revenues projected in the first year of the law’s implementation alone is about P62.3 billion, while this is expected to rise gradually to P73 billion, P85 billion, 96 billion, and P110 billion in the next four years.
Health officials earlier said about P257 billion is needed in the first year of implementation of UHC.
Dominguez said that while the government will be able to serve all people under the UHC even without the revenues from sin taxes “not all of the intended expenses will be covered.”
He also noted that sin tax bills passed in the House of the Representatives “will hardly make a dent on the funding gap.”
“So we really need the (SB) 1599…They are representatives of the people and I think they are very keen on seeing the will of the people,” he said.
The DOF chief also cited the increased prevalence of smoking to 23 percent in 2018 even after the previous sin tax measure has brought this down from a high of 29 percent.
This increase, he said, is a warning sign, thus, the need to further increase taxes on tobacco and alcoholic products to address the issue.
“We run the risk of reversing previous gains,” he said, adding that there is a need to really fund the UHC since this is “at par with the world’s best health care system.”
Relatively, Duque stressed that the sin tax measure is a health measure.
He pointed out that without the sin tax reforms about 250,000 Filipinos are at risk annually because their medical needs will not be met.
With only about three weeks remaining for the Senate to tackle the measure before they go on recess, the Health Chief is still hoping that the measure will be passed.
“We hope and pray that they see the light of day and support the legacy of the President for the Filipino people,” he added. (PNA)