Workers slam Senate’s passage of sin tax bill

LABOR center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today the Senate’s passage of the sin tax bill last Tuesday night, saying the tax measure is an added burden on the backs of the country’s workers and poor and that the Aquino government is not really concerned with the public’s health.

KMU said the approval of Senate Bill 3299, which will enable the government to raise some P40-45 billion in additional revenue from higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, is the latest in a series of government moves that will reduce workers’ real income.

The labor center said the increase in sin taxes is part of a package of policies that include allowing power and water rate hikes, increasing fares in the MRT and LRT, privatizing government hospitals, testing public opinion for a “text tax,” and hiking fees for transactions with the government.

“The sin tax bill should not be taken in isolation from other government measures that are increasing the hardships of workers and the poor. It will further reduce the hard-earned incomes of workers and the poor and should be junked,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

“The Aquino government is projecting additional income from sin taxes while saying that these will discourage the poor from buying alcohol and tobacco products. The truth is that it is primarily interested in increasing government revenues,” he added.

“Judging from the Aquino government’s record, these taxes will not go to improving the country’s health services or other social services. These will go to foreign lending institutions in the form of debt payments and to big bureaucrats in the form of corruption and perks,” he said.

KMU said that the Aquino government is merely using the sin tax bill to cover up its uncaring attitude toward poor people’s health as shown by its plan to privatize public health institutions.

“Scaring people with deadly hospitalization fees so they will lead healthy lives is not the best way to promote the public’s health. The Aquino government cannot claim to be championing the public’s health when it goes full swing in privatizing public hospitals,” Labog said.

“For Filipinos, the No. 1 health problem is hunger, the lack of sufficient food, not alcohol or tobacco products.  The No. 1 enemy of Filipinos’ health is the Aquino government, which has reduced workers’ capacity to buy enough food,” he added.

“If this government is really sincere in upholding workers’ and the poor’s health, then it should have legislated a P125 across-the-board wage hike nationwide and other measures that will allow workers to buy sufficient food. Instead of making laws that favor workers, it is rushing laws that are anti-worker,” he said.

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