Tobacco farmers dismayed over hiked excise tax

THE health advocates were happy but not the tobacco farmers’ group that was dismayed at the Congress’ passage of the bill increasing the excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

In a Bombo Radyo Dagupan interview, Saturnino Distor, president of Philippine Tobacco Growers Association Inc. from the tobacco-producing town of San Fabian town, said his members are saddened by the bill’s approval “without considering many of our sentiments”.

Comparing their plight to a boxing bout where Sen. Manny Pacquaio’s time to prepare for his fight, Distor said the tobacco farmers were not given the chance to present and hear their arguments.

He said Congress’s desire to fund the Universal Health Care (UHC) will result in decreased tobacco production, and eventually lesser revenues for the purpose.

“So how will they sustain the funds for UHC if there is lower production this coming year?,” Distor asked.

He expressed wonder why the focus of increase of the so-called sin taxes has been on tobacco only while others like alcohol was untouched.

“We, tobacco farmers, feel like we are the goose that lays the golden eggs but why are they not taking care of us so that we can produce more eggs?,” he lamented.

Distor further said tobacco farmers provide billions of cigarette taxes that go to government coffers yet they were not given the chance to air their sentiments.

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

In an earlier interview with Pangasinan media, Distor pointed out the fast decline of tobacco production citing data from the National Tobacco Administration that showed that from 68 million kilograms of tobacco production in 2013, it decreased to 48 million kilograms in 2017 because of successive tax increase.

He said the series of increase in tobacco taxes since 2013 will eventually result in lower revenues for the UHC. (PhilStar Wire Service)

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