Doctors march toward the Senate on Jan. 29 to push for an increase in tobacco tax. Senators are deliberating several bills filed which aim to increase tax rates to up to P90 per pack of cigarettes. Photo by Klaire Ting

Advocates for higher tobacco tax play 'pabitin' with cigarette packs to reach their preferred tax rate of P90 per pack. Photo by Klaire Ting

Students involved in "Bawas Bisyo," an educational campaign on the Sin Tax Law, march in support of bills filed in the Senate. The House of Representatives had already passed a bill adding P37.50 in taxes to each pack of cigarettes. Photo by Klaire Ting

Tobacco farmers' groups assemble in front of the Senate in Jan. 29, seeking to stop the lawmakers from passing a bill that will affect their livelihood. The Tobacco Regulation Law states that tobacco farmers should have switched to other crops and livelihood as early as 2008, the deadline imposed by Republic Act 9211. Photo by Klaire Ting

A group with a website called also object to proposals to increase sin taxes. A quick check shows the website, created in 2016, is a web hosting domain and contains no information related to smoking or tobacco. Photo by Klaire Ting

By law, sin tax hike should also help tobacco farmers

As the Senate Ways and Means Committee continues its deliberations on the increase in excise tax for cigarettes and alcohol, senators have focused on the hike’s primary beneficiary: the government’s universal health care agenda.

The other beneficiary – tobacco farmers – is seldom mentioned.

In an interview with VERA Files last year, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said excise taxes are a form of indirect subsidy to the tobacco industry -- 15 percent of the revenue from sin taxes is divided among tobacco-producing provinces, towns and cities. Republic Act 10351 earmarked this to improve the lives of farmers and shift them away from tobacco by developing alternative farming systems.

But as VERA Files found out, the tobacco industry still keeps on growing. (See: Ten years since smoking regulation law, farmers still stuck with tobacco)

Watch this video to find out why tobacco farmers in Balaoan, La Union and Candon City, Ilocos Sur find it more difficult to shift to other crops.

(This story was produced under the “Mga Nagbababang Kuwento: Reporting on Tobacco and Sin Tax Media Training and Fellowship Program” by Probe Media Foundation with the support of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)


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About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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