Press Release
August 29, 2019

Chair, Committee on Ways and Means
Ambush Interview Transcript

Reporter: What is your takeaway from the hearing?

PSC: Well, first of all, I am very happy na we had a very productive hearing. I think talagang nagkaroon ng opportunity ang iba't ibang stakeholders to present their side. So even I am very much educated. I'd like to think na lumabas ako sa hearing na 'yun na mas marmai na akong naiintindihan.

Hindi po ako manginginom kaya hindi natural sa akin na maisip ko ang mga presyo niyan. But nag-abala talaga ako to make a comparison of the prices because yun nga, different industries have different products. And different manufacturers have different products. And ang request nila is a level playing field.

So in other words, within the industry, there were some comparisons on the taxation effect on their products. So yung mga nagma-manufacture ng distilled products, pino-point out nila na lugi daw sila sa taxation ng wine. And ako naman, we took note of that. But we also pointed out that, ako, when I looked at the taxation of distilled products, ang example ko is Gin Bilog, kinompare (compare) ko sa beer, isang bote ng Gin Bilog is 350 ml, isang bote ng beer specifically si Pale Pilsen ng San Miguel is 320 ml. So halos pareho. Pero yung Gin Bilog, sampung shot yun. Kung 350 ml, 35 ml (per shot), sampung shot yun, sampu yun. Yung beer, considered na isang inom lang yun, diba?

So 'pag kinompare (compare) mo yun, and then ang selling price nun is nasa 46 pesos versus something like 35 pesos, wala pang VAT yun, sampung inom yun na bawat inom may alcohol content na may tama na.

So it's important for us legislators to take into consideration the health effect and then the economic consequences, hindi lang isa.

Sabi ko nga sa DOF, we should all have an open mind together to see how we can address these multiple concerns, yung economic reforms, increased taxation, but also the health measures. They were pointing out that in the industry, that there's a decline in the consumption. For me, then that should be considered as a positive thing as far as the health sector is concerned. Because we have to admit that we really want less people drinking, especially the young ones.

On the other hand, we do want an effective tax measure. So it's important to really find that balance. So yun yung trabaho natin. It's what makes my job interesting and at the same time, difficult. Pero interesting naman.

Reporter: What are you leaning towards now, ma'am? I remember sa Kapihan, you mentioned that you were keen on higher tax rates.

PSC: I will summarize my position. Not much has changed since the Kapihan. I am with the administration. I support the vision of this administration, the President, and the Secretary of Finance to see it become a reality that we become an upper-middle income country. So we need the taxes to improve health care and all the other services we want to provide. I see that vision.

On the other hand, I am also a very, very passionate healthcare advocate. So on that note, if the sin products will be taxed, I am also supportive of that. I have told my colleagues that I will be as objective as humanly possible in coming up with my committee report. But ang disclaimer ko is I am a health advocate.

So my position is, the burden of proof is with those who do not want sin taxes or who do not want an increase in sin tax. The burden of proof is on them.

On that note, I will be an impartial judge as possible, if you can put it that way by analogy. Kasi I want to get as much input. And then kung makikita ko naman yung reason na baka may bababaan dito, may tataasan sa kabila, gagawin natin yun. Kasi I'd like to be able to deliver to DOF that figure that they are looking for, but at the same time, not sacrifice the quality of health.

I do not buy� Uulitin ko. Hindi ho mabenta sa akin, hindi ho ako naniniwala na kailangan murang mura ang mga nakakasakit, nakakamatay (na produkto) sa taumbayan. Porke mahirap kayo, it doesn't mean na kayo ang unang dapat mamatay. Kabaliktaran nga eh. Kung sino ang mahirap, dapat sila ho ang nabibigyan ng mas maraming biyaya and mas maraming benefits, at affordable prices.

But that does not mean na yung mga mayayaman, kayang bumili ng produktong masasarap, tapos kayo, yung mahihirap doon na lang sa nakakamatay. Hindi ata tama yun. Mabigat sa kalooban kong tanggapin yun.

Reporter: What revenue target are you looking at?

PSC: For now, I am still just going with the targets of DOF. I can give you the chart to show you the actual numbers. But the actual figure may change depending on what we might come up with if it turns out that yung concern ng sa distilled eh kulang talaga yung tax sa mga wine. So baka tumaas. O 'di hindi naman aangal ang DOF nun dahil napataas pa natin.

Wala namang sinasabi kasi yung distilled group na babaan sila. O 'di okay na yun, diba? Wala silang sinabi. Inulit ko pa, "So is your only concern that it's not a (level) playing field?" And that's what they told me.

Reporter: With everything that's been said, how long do you think Senate needs before coming up with a final draft?

PSC: I was targeting around the second week of September to come up with my committee report. But I did not know that there might be a recomputation on the part of DOF, considering what was revealed in today's hearing.

I do mean it when I said to the industry that we have to have an open mind and look at all their concerns. So if I need to give DOF a little extra time to make their presentation, and I even offered that we can have a technical working group where kami yung mediator, we can do that.

So if that will necessitate another week or even two weeks� But within September. Committee report na yun for alcohol.

Reporter: Why did you take exception sa claim of potential job losses?

PSC: Kasi for me - and pakiusap ko 'to sa media - don't run away with a story� when we're talking about sin products, don't scare the people into thinking that what we're trying to do is harmful to the Filipino people (like in terms of job losses).

So if you're going to say that there's x amount of people to lose jobs, then I am going to dig up all the figures to show how many families are affected by the same sin products, how many deaths, how many battered women, how many neglected children.

Ibabato ko din yun. And pakiusap ko sa inyo, don't use these stories in the business section without also including stories about the death and the children who are violated, and the women who are left homeless, who have to give up the food on the table for this.

You know what I mean? Because it's not a fair story to tell. So yun lang naman yung point ko. And reminder ko rin yun sa lahat. And thanks for asking kasi it gives me an opportunity to make pakiusap to all of you.

Thank you!

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