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DOF chief OK with staggered tobacco tax hike for healthcare program

MANILA, Philippines – The staggered implementation of the proposed tobacco tax increase is not ideal but acceptable, as long as it covers the funding gap of the Universal Health Care program, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Monday.

“A staggered [implementation of the] bill is not ideal but if it helps us reach the funding gap, yes, it will be okay,” Dominguez said in a Senate hearing.

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He pointed out that the estimated expenditure for the next five years for the recently-enacted Universal Health Care act is about P1.4 trillion.

The government, however, currently has only about P1 trillion for the program.

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“We’re going to be short roughly P400 billion. I’m sure that’s certainly not the intention of the President or the legislative. They want the full coverage,” Dominguez said.

He added that he hopes the bill would be passed within the last 5 session days in the Senate.

The Senate is proposing a hike of P45 to P60 per cigarette pack by 2023.

In its draft committee report, the Senate committee on ways and means proposed to increase the tobacco excise tax to P45 from P37.50 in January 2020, to P50 in January 2021, P55 in Jan. 2022 and to P60 in Jan. 2023, and then by five percent yearly thereafter.  (Editor: Gilbert S. Gaviola)

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