Higher tobacco taxes can compensate losses from mine closures — health group

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Following the disclosure by a “certain government official” that the losses incurred as a result of the issuance several mine closure and suspension orders could amount up to P77 billion, HealthJustice Philippines, a public health think tank and advocacy group, pointed out that such losses can be compensated by revenues from the tobacco tax.

“The government need not fear what it perceives to be substantial losses. These can be recouped by increasing tobacco taxes. If we increase tobacco tax to P1 per stick, the estimated annual revenues could be around P174.9 billion. We can also save around 95,696 lives every year. That way, we are hitting two birds with one stone. We are prioritizing our health and environment while still ensuring our fiscal stability,” said Atty. Irene Reyes of HealthJustice.

In an earlier statement, HealthJustice announced that “Increasing the tobacco taxes is recognized by the World Health Organisation as the most effective way to discourage smoking and prevent the youth from trying it in the first place. An increase of P1 tobacco tax per stick can significantly curtail smoking in the Philippines and save around 100,000 lives every year.”

Last February 9, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced the closure of 23 mining firms in different parts of the country. Secretary Gina Lopez pointed out that these firms were operating in or areas near watersheds, causing coastal waters to be contaminated with excessive mineral particles, consequently posing a risk to the environment and the health and lives of those living in mining communities.

“You cannot, you must not, and you should not have any mining which endangers the water supply of the Filipino. No amount of money warrants the quality of life of the Filipino,” Lopez said.

The data provided by the source stated in the article published by the Manila Bulletin last February 5 revealed that almost 42% of the taxes collected from the mining industry in the recent years came from those slapped with a either a closure or suspension order. The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines likewise mentioned that the losses could well amount up to P66.6 billion.

“We are mandated under the World Health Organization Framework Convention to increase our tobacco taxes. The revenues for such can very well compensate for the losses that will take place in the DENR’s unprecedented move to prioritize the health and safety of those living in mining communities as well as the sanctity of the environment, ” Reyes explained.

HealthJustice Philippines is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control.