Attention, legislators: ‘Sin tax’ reforms needed

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The editorial “Equitable taxation” (Inquirer, 4/10/12) is spot-on, timely, and a matter that should be given much more importance by our legislators who are currently on recess.

Indeed, it is about time the current “sin tax” regime was changed. The billions of pesos in revenues lost with every year that reforms were not enacted could have gone a long way in improving public welfare, services, and infrastructure, and in cutting the ever-increasing debt of the government. The increasing public health expenditure due to tobacco-related diseases should also be recognized.

Since smoking is not illegal, the regulations imposed on it should at least be fair for all the players—not just the tobacco companies but also the government and the consumers. Our Constitution provides that “the rule of taxation shall be uniform and equitable.” With the existing price classification freeze at 1996 prices, however, one cannot but wonder: Why is such a scheme allowed for an industry that provides a product that has been proven harmful to health?

Yes, the plight of tobacco farmers and workers in the tobacco industry is a valid concern. But so is the undue advantage granted tobacco companies. The sooner reforms are implemented, the earlier the farmers and workers will be able to adapt to and develop an alternative source of livelihood that will be much more beneficial for them.

Only the wisdom of our legislators can rectify this unjust situation. It is only fair to expect our legislators to possess a deeper understanding of the situation, and accordingly, deal with it with a sense of urgency. Equity does not necessarily dictate that the tobacco companies shall lose. But equity dictates that they give what is right and due.

Clearly, this unjust situation has been going on for too long. We need the “sin tax” reforms urgently.

—FATIMA ELIZA ZUÑIGA, researcher,

Action for Economic Reforms,

132 West Avenue, Quezon City

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