MANILA, Philippines – With the bicam hearings for Sin Tax wrapping up on Monday, committee members saved the discussion for earmarking last. Health advocates continue to stress the importance of allocating funds for health promotion, which they claim goes hand in hand with universal health care.
“Universal health care will not be successful without health promotion. You can’t just keep treating the sick without ensuring first that people maintain their health. If that’s the case, then all you have is a vicious cycle that is way too expensive,” says Dr. Mario Villaverde if the Ateneo College of Government. “Majority of deaths are due to non-communicable diseases, which are chronic and irreversible. To eliminate this threat, the best strategy is to prevent people from making poor lifestyle choices that lead to these diseases.”
60% of all deaths in the country are attributed to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
“This is why there is a need to invest in health promotion. It eases the burden of health costs by keeping healthy people healthy,” continues Dr. Villaverde.
Health promotion programs include tobacco control, alcohol moderation, physical activity, health diet, and road safety.
“Tobacco control is just one aspect of health promotion and sin tax has proved to be an effective measure in reducing the demand for cigarettes. The stronger the bill, the better, especially because it can keep the youth and the poor safe from smoking and all the diseases that come with it,” says Engr. Emer Rojas, Global Cancer Ambassador and President of the New Vois Association of the Philippines.
In the Senate approved version of the bill, only P100M was set aside for health information and education.
“Health promotion is not just information or education, it involves policymaking, multi-sectoral integration and so much more. P100M is hardly enough to cover everything. It is important that our leaders realize the importance of Health Promotion and how it differs from universal health care,” says Atty. Irene Reyes, managing director of HealthJustice Philippines.
In a joint statement signed by former health secretaries Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, Dr. Esperanza Cabral, Dr. Alberto Romualdez, Dr. Juan Flavier, Dr. Alfredo Bengzon, and Dr. Francisco Duque III, an allotment of P1B for health promotion was their ideal recommendation.
“P1B for health promotion ensures that all Filipinos will benefit from the health budget by making healthier options more accessible. This will encourage Filipinos to make better and healthier choices when it comes to their lifestyle,” says former health secretary Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan.
With the bicam hearings targeted to close on December 10, legislators are confident that the sin tax bill we be passed before the year ends. ###