President Duterte found an unlikely ally in a former rival for the presidency in former Interior and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas, who backed his call for an increase in the taxes on tobacco and alcohol products.
In a statement, Roxas said Duterte’s decision to certify as urgent the tobacco tax hike before the Congress is timely as it would raise more funds to finance the health care needs of the Filipinos.
“I support the President’s decision to certify as urgent the updating of tobacco tax rates to fund the drive to realize Universal Health Care Coverage,” said Roxas, who will make a return bid to the Senate in the May midterm elections.
“The tax rates are due for an update given the recent changes in overall price levels,” he added.
Roxas explained that increase in tobacco tax is a better option compared to the excise tax on fuel products, which some experts said that its implementation this month could jack up the prices of basic commodities.
Several groups and political leaders have been calling for the suspension or cancellation of the excise tax on fuel since its first tranche has contributed in the high inflation rate last year.
But the government is determined to push through as the funds that would be generated from excise tax on fuel are essential in the Duterte administration’s infrastructure projects.
“Both tobacco and alcohol have been proven to be detrimental to people’s health and its cost to society is clear; on the other hand, fuel is needed for transport and an excise tax on it has an inflationary and hurts even those who don’t directly use fuel,” said Roxas.
He stressed that it is the ordinary people who would bear the brunt of the increased excise taxes on fuel.
Roxas has decided to go back to politics after the 2016 presidential race which was won by Duterte.
One of his priorities, according to Roxas, will be health care.
“When I worked on the Cheaper Medicines Law, we were able to lower the cost of maintenance drugs. Ang susunod nating aayusin ay maibaba ang out of pocket expense pagdating sa health. Ibig sabihin kailangan palawakin at palakasin ang coverage ng PhilHealth para hindi na magastos magkasakit,” said Roxas.