Health group to Sotto: Sin Tax Reform Law takes care of our farmers

HealthJustice Philippines, a think tank and advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion, reacted to the statement uttered by Senator Vicente Sotto III suggesting that the implementation of the Republic Act (RA) No. 10351 or the Sin Tax Reform Law has had a negative effect on farmers.

“Mga tobacco farmers right now dumudugo pa ang puso sa sin tax natin, naiiyak e. So I object […] to the proposal of Senator JV,” Sotto said during the Senate hearing yesterday on the proposed amendments to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion bill.

“Contrary to the claim of Senator Sotto, RA 10351 was crafted with the health of the Filipino people and the welfare of the tobacco farmers in mind. The two are not mutually exclusive. Section 8 provides that 15% of the incremental revenue collected from tobacco tax shall be divided among provinces producing burley and native tobacco, which will be utilized exclusively to develop economically viable alternative forms of livelihood for tobacco farmers and workers,” said Mary Ann Fernandez Mendoza, President of HealthJustice.

The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), a global health treaty which the Philippines ratified in 2003, mandates state parties to adopt policies that will effectively reduce demand for tobacco products. It has been ratified by 180 states, or over 90% of the world.

During the seventh session of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the WHO FCTC held last year in New Delhi, India, Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the Convention Secretariat, told the delegates: “We have an obligation to protect vulnerable members of the tobacco production chain – the farmers. But we do that not through encouraging more growing, as the tobacco industry does, but through the development of solid, sustainable alternatives that will promote a better future for farmers and their families.”

“To say then that the law disregards the welfare of farmers could not be any further from the truth. Moreover, if our legislators really care about our tobacco farmers, they will support the shift to economically viable alternatives. Tobacco farming is inherently harmful. Occupational risks related to it include green tobacco sickness, pesticide intoxication, respiratory and dermatological disorders, and cancers,” Fernandez Mendoza added.

HealthJustice Philippines is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is a Programme Partner of the NCD Alliance, an international network of experts and advocates working to reduce the global burden of non-communicable diseases.

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