The New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) has challenged all presidential candidates to take advantage of the last and final PiliPinas debates to discuss their programs for health.
NVAP President Emer Rojas made the challenge following the failure of all of the presidential bets to declare their platform for health during the two previous broadcast debates.
The last and final leg of PiliPinas debates, organized by the Commission on Elections, in partnership with media, will be held on April 24 in Pangasinan province.
“We are electing the next Philippine president in just more than a month and the nation has yet to hear from our candidates what will be their program for health if elected. I hope this is not an indication that health is not one of their priorities,” Rojas, a global cancer ambassador and nominee for CANCER party list, said.
Rojas said the health community is particularly interested to know from the candidates how they plan to utilize the multi-billion sin tax collections which in 2015 have reached P141.84 billion.
Collections in 2014 totaled P112.81 billion.
Data from the Bureau of Internal Revenue showed that revenues from tobacco increased 32 percent to P100.02 billion while collections from fermented liquors reached 14 percent to 28.26 billion last year.
Republic Act 10351 or the amended sin taxes for liquor and tobacco was enacted in 2012 defying a strong tobacco lobby than prevailed in Congress for more than two decades.
Rojas said while the law was very clear that 85% of the sin tax should be earmarked for health and 15% should be allocated to help tobacco farmers, it is still very important for the people to know exactly how the next government is going to utilize the funds.
“We are talking about huge money that should be used to improve health expenditures and services. We deserve to know from the candidates how they wish to use these funds to improve the national health agenda so that every Filipino is assured of better public health access and services,” said Rojas.
Collections from sin tax were mainly used by the Aquino adminstration to improve indigents enrolment and service coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth).
The incremental adjustments to the sin tax will end in 2017.