Press Release
November 21, 2019

Pia remains committed to passing sin tax bill
Cayetano shares President's exasperation with e-cig industry's resistance to government regulation

"My job is to use taxation as a tool to protect our citizen's health. My work continues."

Thus said Senator Pia S. Cayetano when asked how her task as sponsor of the Sin Tax Reform Bill in the Senate would be affected by President Rodrigo Duterte's recent directive to restrict the use and importation of e-cigarettes.

The Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Cayetano is sponsoring in plenary Senate Bill No. 1074, which seeks to raise sin taxes on e-cigarettes, as well as alcohol products.

"I just have to push through with my part of the job, which is to pass the taxation measure, whether or not an Executive Order from the President comes out," the senator said during a phone interview with Senate reporters on Thursday (November 21).

"Whether it's a total ban or a regulation [on ecig products], I have to be ready. Because this taxation measure has to be of a more or less permanent nature," she explained, reiterating her position that taxation is an effective tool to make these harmful products less accessible to young people.

On the other hand, Cayetano stated that the President's order to ban e-cigarettes could be a result of his "disappointment and exasperation" with the industry's moves to evade any form of regulation by the government.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier issued Administrative Order (AO) 2019-0007, which would have facilitated the registration and the mechanics for regulating e-cigarette products. But members of the industry questioned this order in court, which led to the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the AO.

"In fairness, there were some industry players who said they are happy to be regulated. Meanwhile, others went ahead and filed cases to prevent DOH and FDA [Food and Drug Administration] from regulating them. Now, we have products that are clearly harmful to the public; and they are unregulated," Cayetano lamented.

"So when the President said 'ban these products,' it's because of the annoying reality that these people don't want to be regulated, and there are courts that actually felt that the business interests of these vaping companies are more important than the welfare and health of the Filipinos," she added.

"It boggles my mind. At si Presidente din, takang-taka kung bakit ganyan sila magdesisyon. [Nag-TRO sila laban sa] Department of Health at FDA."

Asked whether the executive department has the power to stop e-cig products from coming into the country without legislation, Cayetano said it is the inherent power of the executive branch to take immediate action if public health is at risk.

"There are parts of the work of the executive that require immediate action. It is inherent in the Constitution - Article II Section 15 - says that it is the State's duty to protect the people's health," she emphasized.

Meanwhile, the senator bared her plan to file a separate pro-health bill in the Senate to 'highly regulate' e-cigarette products in the country.

"I intend to file a bill, which I believe is more comprehensive and reflective of the need to highly regulate a product that poses a health risk to the Filipinos. It's in the drafting stage and I'd say it's about 90 percent complete," she said.

Such regulations include banning the sale of the products to young people (including youth above 18 years old); strictly regulating advertisements; and prohibiting the sale of e-cigs in certain places like convenience stores, where they can be easily accessible to the youth.

Asked whether she hopes to get the sin tax bill passed within this year, Cayetano answered: "I hope so. I have been having more detailed discussions with my colleagues."

She added: "I don't think anyone is [against] taxing these sin products; it's just a question of rates. So I want to just sit down and discuss with them, 'saan tayo ngayon?' Kasi ako, I stand by the rates that I propose."

News Latest News Feed