MANILA, Philippines– The tax liabilities of the Mighty Corporation would result to a significant economic loss. These unpaid taxes could have been earmarked to procure medicines and pay for the medical treatment of poor Filipinos who are most affected by smoking-related diseases. The inspections of the Bureau of Customs recently exposed the tax anomaly of this homegrown cigarette firm by using fake excise stamps on cigarette packs costing government 9.56 Billion pesos of additional tax revenue. This has an imminent depressing impact on government funds to healthcare services that are deliberately beneficial to the poor.
The Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Finance (DOF) mutually stressed that the Sin Tax Reform Law, also known as Republic Act 10351 which collects funds from the excise tax charged on tobacco products, is a prime directive to sustain the Universal Health Care Program of the government in executing health-centered priority programs especially to the destitute sectors of the society.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial placed emphasis on the undermining effects of freeing Mighty Corporation from its tax liabilities to the Filipino people. “The tax evasion on these tobacco products deprives the poor of essential health services that are substantially prioritized for them. Needless to say that tobacco smoke is a serious threat not only to the smokers but also to the nonsmokers who are at risk of the same harmful health consequences”, the Health Chief asserted.
The projected losses are derived from depleted income from getting sick and premature death as a result of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and stroke. These are just four of the more than 40 diseases associated with smoking, in addition to the emotional cost of losing a loved one.
The Department of Finance officials greatly recognize the joint efforts of government agencies in the campaign against tax fraud in the country that can hinder the achievement of integral services in the same manner with health interventions being compromised.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III conveyed his strong support to the DOH and pledged to intensify the commitment to the Sin Tax Law, allocating more resources to the healthcare. “Correct payment of taxes is the way to revolutionize health services for our people and even save many lives”, he expressed.
In line with appropriate payment of taxes, additional health funds could defray costs in deploying health personnel to serve the communities and providing adequate amounts of commodities. Around 10,123 nurses are currently deployed in the field. To achieve the ratio of 1 nurse per barangay, a total 31,913 nurses are needed needing an additional yearly budget of P21.1 billion. These funds are urgently needed to be able to meet the required number of healthcare providers to sufficiently serve the constituents particularly in deprived areas.
The estimated cost of paying for the medicines of the poor is about P14 billion for 2017. The Sin Tax grants DOH to utilize revenue for the Medicine Access Program (MAP) that provides expensive medicines to indigent Filipinos. The DOH program also distributes oral maintenance medicines to 1,157,563 hypertension patients and to 441,642 patients being treated for diabetes. With an increase of a mere 1 Billion pesos to the program, the DOH would be able to give medical attention to 3,975,421 patients with hypertension, and 1,705,030 with diabetes.
Another billion pesos from tobacco excise tax could also aid a total of 3,826,155 patients treated for hypercholesterolemia, 471,437 insulin dependent diabetics, 27,768 children being treated for cancer, 6,568 breast cancer patients, 33,333 stroke patients, 256,147 mental health patients, 14,059 patients under treatment for colon cancer and rectum cancer.
“As a consequence, this would give rise to children not being immunized and remained malnourished, people not treated of Tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases and inaccessibility of medicines for senior citizens among others because of the projected revenue losses out of the non-payment of correct taxes by the Mighty Corporation needed to finance imperative health programs”, Health Secretary Ubial concluded.