Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano

Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano expressed disgust over the widespread corruption hounding the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) putting to waste the sacrifices of tobacco farmers who helped fund the agency.

Savellano, in a manifestation during a House inquiry on the corruption issues raised against PhilHealth, stressed that taxes coming from the tobacco industry have been on a steady rise to fund the programs of PhilHealth and the Department of Health.

“Magkakabit ang bituka ng PhilHealth at industriya ng tabako,” Savellano said. 

The Ilocos solon said over two million people are into farming and production of tobacco which has contributed some P147.6 billion in excise tax to the government in 2019.

He said taxes imposed on alcohol, tobacco and its derivatives have been steadily climbing to fund the government’s health programs.

President Duterte recently appointed former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Dante Gierran as the new PhilHealth chief, replacing retired military general Ricardo Morales who retired due to health reasons in the midst of congressional inquiries of massive corruption in the agency.

“Simula nang pinasa ang RA 10351 o Sin Tax Law nuong 2012, patuloy ang pagtaas ng excise tax ng tabako. Mula sa pinakamababang tax na 2.72 buwis kada kaha, naging P45 na ito ngayon. Pagkatapos ng Sin Tax Law, pinataw pa natin ang RA 10963 o TRAIN Law noong December 2017, RA 11364 noong June 2019 at RA 11467 noong January ng taong ito. Tumaas ang excise tax mula 2017 hanggang 2020 ng 50%.

“Sa lahat ng binuwisan ng excise tax, ang tabako ang pinakamalaki ang pagtaas.”

Savellano underscored that the burden brought about by these taxes have been on the shoulders of the tobacco farmers.

But while the taxes have been rising, the number of tobacco farmers have also been shrinking.

“Nabawasan na ang mga magsasaka ng tabako. Mula 55,763 nuong 2014, nasa 29,839 na lamang noong nakaraang taon ayos sa NTA.  Mula 38,264 hectares nuong 2014, ang sinasaka na lang ngayon ay 18,912 hectares,” he said.

And because of these taxes, incremental revenues earmarked for health grew substantially – P30.5 Billion in 2014, P33.7 Billion in 2015, P62.7 Billion in 2016, P59.2 Billion in 2017, P71.2 Billion in 2018 and P90.9 Billion in 2019.

“Sa mga malaking budget na ito, ang pinaka-nakinabang sa lahat ay ang PhilHealth kung saan pinambayad sa premium ng miyembro ang mga sumusunod na halaga:  22.7 Billion noong 2014, P24.5 Billion noong 2015, P31.3 Billion noong 2016, P40.6 Billion noong 2017, P48.0 Billion noong 2018 at P54.7 Billion noong 2019,” Savellano said.

“The government should get into the bottom of this mess at PhilHealth for the sake of our tobacco farmers who have toiled and carried the burden of the taxes that kept these agencies afloat,” he said. (Source: Inquirer.net)