Recto: Bicam allocates virtual pork barrel in Sin Tax bill

sen.-recto

SENATOR Ralph Recto expressed fear that the intention of the sin tax bill to improve local hospital under health facilities enhancement program may be jeopardized by local politicians because of a lump sum provision to the Department of Health (DOH), a virtual allocation of a separate pork barrel.

In his dissenting opinion in the final version of the Sin tax bill, Recto said the bicameral conference committee deleted a provision in the Senate version which allocate more than P6 billion for health facilities enhancement program for 618 government hospitals around the country.

“There is a provision in the Senate allotting P6 billion annually for improvement of health facilities. Tinanggal nila iyon, so wala ngayong specifics, kaya hindi maliwanag,” Recto said.

Recto said that under the new version, the DOH has the final authority on which hospital will be given allocations for improvements, which may be monopolized by local politicians allied to the administration.

“So, ang mga pulitiko, lalapit sa kanila, sila ngayon ang Diyos na magsasabi kung saan ilalagay ang pondo o mas mahalaga ba ilagay natin sa batas iyon. Magiging pulitika iyan,  palakasan ngayon iyan, eh kung nakalagay sa batas iyan, maliwanag di ba. Pulitika iyan. Parang magiging separate pork barrel iyan,” Recto said.

“Being a lump sum like a blank check, so mga pulitiko, lalapit doon, may maghahari-harian, may magdidiyos-diyosan, ako ang magbibigay sa inyo,” he added.

Under the final version, the bicameral conference committee deleted a provision for specific allocation, and instead agreed to have a lump sum allocations to the Department of Health (DOH) on the Health Facilities Enhancement Program amounting to 20 percent of the total revenues to be generated annually after deducting the share of tobacco farmers under Republic Act 7171 and 8240 from tobacco.

For 2013, the projected revenues on sin products are P33.9 billion (P23.4-B for tobacco and P10.56-B for alcohol). Under the final version, 30 percent  or P7 billion will be deducted from the P23.4 billion projected revenues for tobacco, as automatic appropriations under Republic Act 7171 and 8240 specifically for livelihood programs to tobacco and burley leaf farmers.

The remaining balance of P16.4 billion from tobacco will be added to the projected taxes on alcohol amounting to P10.56 billion, which will have a balance of P26.9 billion; and from which an amount of P12.5 billion will also be automatically allotted for payment of premiums to Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) coverage of additional 5.2 million poor families.

After deducting PhilHealth premiums, the balance will be P14.4 billion and from which 80 percent will be allocated for the information health awareness programs to meet the United Nation’s Medium Development Goals (MDGs), and 20 percent for the health facilities enhancement program of the DOH.

“Dito siguro sana na may pondo ang 618 hospitals. That is more than P6 billion every year to improve the health facilities like the regional hospital and medical centres should get P100 million every year, pero tinanggal nila,” Recto said.

Recto cited the present predicament of local government units in the areas devastated by Typhoon Pablo, where the government failed to attend to the medical need of most victims due to absence of proper health facilities.

“Saan ba kailangan nang higit sa lahat ang pondong pangkalusugan? Doon sa kanayunan, in the countryside. We are seeing now from the onslaught of typhoon Pablo, halos walang ospital sa Compostella Valley, o kulang na kulang,” Recto lamented.

Also, Recto said the final version on sin tax deleted a provision that will cover additional 10 million poor families in PhilHealth, and including a portion funding the displaced workers in the implementation of the measure.

“Remember, the original purpose of this bill is to impose additional taxes on sin industry  upang magkaroon tayo ng panggastos sa health insurance. Magbibigay tayo ng pondo para sa mahigit 10 milyong  pamilya under PhilHealth, ngayon sa panukala tinanggal iyon, limang milyon na lamang,” Recto explained.

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