The pronouncement of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that he would “let jueteng be” because it is a “commercial activity” in the provinces prompted a health group to identify a potential source of government income: increased tobacco tax revenues.
Duterte, in a speech delivered last June 22 at the National Information and Communications Technology Summit 2018 at the SMX Convention Center in Lanang, Davao City, admitted the possibility that he would not be able to end jueteng.
“Ngayon kung wala akong pampalit sa jueteng, ano ang gawin ko? […] At least umiikot ‘yung pera. ‘Yung iba gutom pero ‘yung iba naman kumakain, and there’s a commercial activity there,” Duterte said.
Duterte also announced that he is “brainstorming with everybody in the Cabinet [how] to come up with a system that would guarantee income to the government.”
HealthJustice Philippines, a public health think tank and advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and promotion, proposed an alternative to jueteng.
“Increased excise taxes on tobacco products is a more viable source of income to the government than jueteng. Tobacco tax is a life-saving measure that can provide resources for this administration’s biggest projects, such as expanding universal health care, building infrastructure and providing free higher education,” said Mary Ann Fernandez Mendoza, President of HealthJustice.
According to computations by tobacco tax advocates Dr. Antonio Dans and economist Jo Ann Diosana, increasing tobacco tax by P60 per pack of cigarettes will generate P67 billion in 2018 and an average of P105 billion annually thereafter.
“President Duterte can encourage legislators to increase tobacco tax to P60 per pack instead. Doing so will not only save millions of lives, but also bring to fruition this administration’s plans to make the country a safer, healthier and more comfortable place for Filipinos,” Fernandez Mendoza reiterated.
Duterte is a known supporter of tobacco control policies. During his time as Davao City mayor, the place was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a model city for the implementation of tobacco control measures. On May 16, 2017, Duterte signed an Executive Order “providing for the establishment of smoke-free environments in public and enclosed places.”
240 Filipinos die every day due to smoking-related diseases.
HealthJustice Philippines is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is a Programme Partner under the NCD Alliance, an international network of experts, advocates, and organizations working to decrease the burden of non-communicable diseases worldwide.
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