This evening I stood behind a woman at Seven Eleven who bought three packets of Marlboro Lights for P110. What kind of an incentive to quit is that? Even someone on the minimum wage here can easily afford to kill themselves by smoking cigarettes.
To give you an idea of how incredibly cheap that is, a pack of Marlboro in the UK costs £5.50, about P460. Three packs would therefore cost the equivalent of P1,380, or over 12 times more than they cost here.
The IMF has pointed out that a single rate of cigarette tax in the Philippines would yield anywhere between P31.8 billion and P33.8 billion in additional revenues in the first year of implementation. Along the way it would also save hundreds of thousands of Philippine lives by dissuading people from smoking (the Philippines is the 15th biggest consumer of cigarettes in the world and the largest consumer in ASEAN).
So since a flat cigarette tax would have such huge benefits for both government revenues and for public health, why isn’t this tax implemented tomorrow? Because, as an article in the British Medical Journal put it, “the Philippine tobacco industry is "the strongest tobacco lobby in Asia".
Hell, Lucio Tan, the owner of Fortune tobacco doesn’t even pay his current taxes. Those of you with long memories will surely remember how during the presidency of Tan’s friend Erap a tax evasion case in 2000 was conveniently thrown out because the Department of Justice conveniently forgot to file a records request on time (thanks Erap!)
A Philippine court has dismissed a 25.27 billion peso tax-evasion case against Lucio Tan, a Chinese-Filipino tycoon and close friend of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, on a technicality, media reports said Thursday.
The Court of Appeals dismissed the case against Tan, 66, because the Department of Justice filed a records request 11 days late, the reports said.
Even as I type this I am sure the domestic and the US tobacco companies operating in the Philippines are preparing some nice fat brown envelopes to make sure that that inconvenient IMF report is quietly shelved.