President Benigno Aquino signed the “sin tax” reform bill into law aimed at raising government revenues and curbing tobacco and alcohol consumption in the country.
“Today, we sign, finally, a law that serves as an early Christmas gift to millions of Filipinos who will be covered by the universal health care program, who will benefit from new public clinics and hospitals that will be built, and who will be discouraged from smoking and drinking,” the President said in a speech at the signing ceremony on Thursday.
The “sin tax” law imposes higher taxes on the “sin products” and is projected to generate additional yearly revenues of roughly 34 billion pesos ($825 million) that will be spent on the universal health care program, local media reports.
Tobacco-related diseases cost the country 177 billion pesos last year, according to government data. Health Secretary Enrique Ona described the new law as a “victory for the health of Filipino people”.
Several lawmakers raised concern on the bill, claiming it would gravely impact thousands of livelihoods.
The president assuaged tobacco farmers’ concerns and ensured they would benefit from the measure in terms of assistance and access to alternative livelihood, adding that “taxes will be uniform and will open the doors for healthy competition in the industry and avoid monopoly”.