THE Department of Finance (DoF) expects to collect P37.2 billion in so-called sin taxes this year after a measure was enacted raising the tax on alcohol products and cigarettes.

The government would probably collect a total of P263.1 billion in the five years through 2024 “to help ensure that universal health care is better funded,” Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said at a briefing on Tuesday.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has signed into law the bill raising the tax on alcohol products, electronic cigarettes and other vapor products. Regular tobacco products were also slapped with higher excise tax under a Juy 2019 law.

Finance officials had projected a P62-billion funding gap for universal health care this year without higher sin taxes, and a P426-billion total gap through 2024.

Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda dismissed concerns about the remaining funding gap, noting that the Universal Health Care Law is still in the initial stage of implementation.

He said there are pending revenue-generating measures worth almost P120 billion that may be allotted to close the gap.

“There is no funding gap,” Mr. Salceda said at the same briefing, adding that out of 81 provinces, only 55 have complied with the requirement to set up universal health care integration sites.

Mr. Salceda, who heads the House ways and means committee, said the House of Representatives is “fully committed” to finance universal health care.

Prices of distilled spirits such as GSM Gin Bilog, Emperador Light and Johnny Walker Black Label will now range from P52-P1,029 from P45-P999 in 2019.

Prices of fermented liquor such as San Miguel products, Red Horse and Heineken will cost P37-P100 from P34-P90. Still wine prices will range from P275-P475 from P265-P465.

Mr. Salceda said the price increases are sufficient to affect the volume of alcohol consumption, but not enough to reduce alcohol drinkers. Congress would have to adjust the rates after three years, he added.

The National Sin Tax Coalition expects a 19% drop in tobacco users, equivalent to a million smokers by 2022, co-convener Anthony C. Leachon said.

Senator Pia S. Cayetano, ways and means committee chairwoman, said she would coordinate with the Senate health committee on ways to beef up the regulation of sin products.

She cited the need to “strengthen our existing regulations and, to the extent necessary, create new laws for the protection of our youth against these harmful products.”

RA 11467 and 11346, which raised the excise tax on regular tobacco products to P45 a pack in 2020 from P35 last year, forms part of the government’s comprehensive tax reform program.

The government has also enacted a measure cutting personal income taxes and increased the levies on several goods and services.

Another law grants estate tax amnesty and amnesty on delinquent accounts left unpaid even after being given final assessment.

Other tax reform packages still pending in Congress are measures that seek to cut corporate income tax and overhaul fiscal incentives, provide a uniform framework for real property valuation and assessment, and simplify the tax on financial investments. — Charmaine A. Tadalan