Issue of November 5, 2017

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Return of former DOH chief backed
by Press release

The New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), a cancer survivor organization, welcomed the return of Dr. Francisco Duque III as secretary of the Department of Health, saying that his appointment comes at a crucial time in the anti-tobacco campaign.

NVAP President Emer Rojas, a cancer survivor and victim of tobacco, said Duque’s comeback as DOH chief would signal the continuation of the health reforms that he initiated in the department when he served as its head in 2005 during the Arroyo administration.

“We are truly grateful to President Rodrigo Duterte for appointing another health champion to the DOH. While we are sad that former Health secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial was unable to finish her term, we are, however, relieved that she is being replaced by an equally deserving health leader,” he said.

Rojas expressed confidence that Duque, who first championed the people’s health against tobacco industry interference as health secretary and then as chief of the Civil Service Commission in 2010, will be supportive of the current campaign to increase tobacco tax to 100 percent from the current rate.

The campaign, which is pushed by anti-smoking advocates and sponsored by Sen. Manny Pacquiao through Senate Bill 1599, seeks to increase the tax for tobacco products from the current P30 to P60 per pack. The proposal also wants an annual increase of nine percent on top of the base tax increment thereafter.

Rojas said the proposal is crucial to continue the gains of the amendments to the Sin Tax Law that were achieved despite three decades of strong lobbying by the tobacco industry.

“Despite the approval of the amendments to the Sin Tax Law in 2012, tobacco price in the Philippines remains to be the cheapest in Asia and the third most inexpensive among the rest of the world,” said Rojas.

Rojas said increasing tobacco tax should be a priority of the government considering that delaying tax reforms would only result to more Filipinos taking up smoking.

He cited a study by the National Academy of Science and Technology, which estimated that every year of delay in increasing tobacco tax would result to 200,000 new smokers in the country.

“These new smokers are expected to come from the very young and very poor sectors exposing more people to 46 life-threatening diseases such as stroke, lung cancer, and heart attack,” Rojas said.

He said Pacquiao’s proposed tobacco tax increase is expected to reduce the number of smoking Filipinos from 13.5 million to 12M by the end of Duterte’s administration.

He added that increasing the tax for tobacco products would be beneficial in financing universal health care, which is expected at P65 billion every year in the next few years.

Rojas said anti-smoking advocates expect Duque to support them in the campaign, the way he supported them in the past.

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