Anti-smoking group Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) asked Sen. Ralph Recto on Saturday to explain how he proposes to manage a cancer epidemic as a result of his watered-down proposal on the sin tax bill on tobacco products.
“Senator Recto should now explain just how he thinks the Philippines will manage a lung cancer epidemic since he clearly took the side of the industry that is selling a death product,” said FCTC executive director Dr. Maricar Limpin.
“He knew that the state is losing P188 billion a year from just the top four causes of deaths among our people. He was overwhelmed with presentations about how smoking is causing diseases and premature deaths and how it is affecting our economy and our people’s survival. What turned out in his report only showed where his loyalty lies,” she added.
According to Limpin, it is inevitable that the country will suffer from a surge in lung cancer cases and early deaths in at least next year with half of Filipino men currently smoking.
She said there are some 17.3 million adult smokers in the Philippines, the highest smoking prevalence in Southeast Asia.
The New Vois Association of the Philippines Inc., an organization of laryngeal cancer survivors, said that Recto not only turned a deaf ear to the voice of health experts and cancer victims during the hearings but his watered-down version smacks of allegiance with the tobacco industry.
“He needs to explain to the Filipino why it is more important to protect the multinational tobacco industry than to save children and the youth from getting cancer. Senator Recto seems to be driven by the desire to protect the tobacco industry in Batangas. I believe we, cancer victims and survivors have to remind him he should be aware of his accountability to the whole country as a senator,” said Emer Rojas, NVAP president and a laryngeal cancer survivor.
Philip Morris’ $ 300-million tobacco plant, its biggest and most expensive in the Asia-Pacific region, is situated in Batangas which is Recto’s turf.
Rojas warned that the sin tax, which is also known as “anti-cancer tax,” will fail to meet its objective of curbing smoking and discouraging children from taking up this deadly habit as cigarette prices would remain cheap under Recto’s version.
The Department of Health, the Department of Finance, and health advocates are pushing for the version of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago that targets P60 billion in sin tax.
Recto, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, had only proposed for P15 billion increase in sin taxes.
“Recto’s version will have little if no effect at all in reducing our smoking population. With only an additional P2 increase in the prices of cigarette packs, it will not deter children from smoking,” said Rojas.