‘Mighty’s tax debts deprive poor of health benefits’
THE tax liabilities of the Mighty Corp. would result to a significant economic loss and deprivation of funds for the medicines of the poor estimated at P14 billion for 2017, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said on Monday.
Ubial said the unpaid taxes could have been earmarked to procure medicines and pay for the medical treatment of poor Filipinos who are the most affected by smoking-related diseases.
“The tax evasion on these tobacco products deprives the poor of essential health services that are substantially prioritized for them. Needless to say, tobacco smoke is a serious threat not only to the smokers but also to the non-smokers who are at risk of the same harmful health consequences,” she said.
The projected losses are derived from depleted income from getting sick and premature death as a result of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and stroke.
“These are just four of the more than 40 diseases associated with smoking, in addition to the emotional cost of losing a loved one,” Ubial added.
The Sin Tax law grants DoH to utilize revenues for the Medicine Access Program that provides expensive medicines to indigent Filipinos. The DoH program also distributes oral maintenance medicines to 1,157,563 hypertensive patients and to 441,642 patients being treated for diabetes.
With an increase of a mere P1 billion to the program, the DoH said it would be able to give medical attention to 3,975,421 patients with hypertension, and 1,705,030 with diabetes.
Another billion pesos from tobacco excise tax could also benefit some 3,826,155 patients being treated for hypercholesterolemia; 471,437 insulin dependent diabetics; 27,768 children being treated for cancer; 6,568 breast cancer patients; 33,333 stroke patients; 256,147 mental health patients and 14,059 patients undergoing treatment for colon cancer and rectum cancer.
“As a consequence, this would give rise to children not being immunized and remained malnourished, people not treated of tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases and inaccessibility of medicines for senior citizens among others because of the projected revenue losses out of the non-payment of correct taxes by the Mighty Corp. needed to finance imperative health programs,” Ubial said.
The Health department and the Department of Finance both explaiend that the Sin Tax Reform Law, also known as Republic Act 10351 which collects funds from the excise tax charged on tobacco products, is a prime directive to sustain the Universal Health Care Program of the government in executing health-centered priority programs especially for the destitute sectors of the society.
The Department of Finance had said that it recognizes the joint efforts of government agencies in the campaign against tax fraud in the country that can hinder the achievement of integral services in the same manner with health interventions being compromised.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has expressed his support to the DoH and pledged to intensify his agency’s commitment to the Sin Tax Law and allocating more resources to health care. “Correct payment of taxes is the way to revolutionize health services for our people and even save many lives,” he said.
In line with appropriate payment of taxes, additional health funds could defray costs in deploying health personnel to serve the communities and provide adequate amounts of commodities.
Around 10,123 nurses are currently deployed in the field but to achieve the ratio of 1 nurse per barangay, a total of 31,913 nurses are needed with an additional yearly budget of P21.1 billion. These funds are urgently needed to be able to meet the required number of health care providers to sufficiently serve the constituents particularly in deprived areas.
The inspections of the Bureau of Customs recently exposed the tax anomaly of the homegrown cigarette firm which reportedly used fake excise stamps on cigarette packs that deprives the government some P9.56 billion pesos in tax revenue. The DoH said that this has an imminent depressing impact on government funds to health care services that directly benefit the poor.