Farmers oppose planned P60-P90 cigarette tax

FROM P35 TAX PER PACK

A group of tobacco farmers, including those from Pangasinan, are strongly opposing the passage of a Senate bill seeking to increase tax on cigarettes as “it will kill the industry and the farmers working in it”.

Saturnino Distor, president of Philippine Tobacco Growers Association Inc. (PTGA) composed of 50,000 tobacco farmers across the country, read a statement in a news conference Friday at Star Plaza Hotel in Dagupan City.

He said they read and heard Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III’s pronouncements pushing for a proposal to increase tobacco tax to P60 – P90 “to kill our industry”.

Distor said more than two million Filipinos are working in the tobacco industry, who, for generations, rely on it for livelihood.

The PTGA had written separate letters to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and to Dominguez, Sen. Sonny Angara and Rep. Estrellita Suansing, chairperson respectively of Ways and Means Committee in the Senate and House of Representatives.

In the letter, it said that the last tax increase already reached more than 1,000 percent decrease in demand.

“From a tax of P2.72 per pack in 2012 for the cheapest cigarette, this hiked to P35 per pack. Every year, tobacco tax continues to increase by four percent,” the letter said.

“And now in less than a year since the government started increasing tax on this product, it will again increase,” it added.

It quoted a statement from the office of Secretary Francisco Duque III that it will follow a proposal of Sen. JV Ejercito to impose P90 tax per cigarette pack with a corresponding nine percent increase yearly. “This proposal is indeed dizzying because it is more than a double increase from the current P35 per pack,” it said.

It pointed out that the tobacco industry sector has been providing billions of pesos to government coffers. It added that no less than the Bureau of Internal Revenue has said that it has collected P126-billion tobacco tax in 2017.

“Because of that, isn’t it proper that we be given the chance to rise again and breathe for a moment?” it asked.

Meanwhile, Bernard Vicente, president of the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers Associations and Cooperatives, said if there is non-stop tobacco tax increase, it will result in the death of the industry as the consumers can no longer afford to buy cigarette product.

“If you kill the tobacco industry, it will not only kill the farmers sector but also RA 10351 or the Sin Tax Law and the Virginia Tobacco Law or RA 7171 and RA 8214 or the Burley Tobacco Law,” Vicente added. (PhilStar Wire Service)

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