Senators eye amendments to e-cigarette tax bill after Duterte bans vaping

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2019 07:06 PM

MANILA - Senators on Wednesday said the chamber will have to review its bill that imposes higher taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes after President Rodrigo Duterte banned the importation and public use vapes.

Duterte earlier instructed authorities to arrest individuals caught using e-cigarettes in public, saying “the government has the power to issue measures to protect public health and public interest.”

“We will have to seek guidance from Malacañang kung ano ba gusto nilang ilagay namin dito sa sin tax measure, kung gusto ba talaga nila mag-total ban,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

“We’re still debating on it so we can work on it in the period of amendments,” he told ABS-CBN News.

Senators are still discussing how to merge the chief executive’s directive with Senate Bill 1047, authored by Senator Pia Cayetano, Senate Health Committee chair Christopher “Bong” Go said.

“Hahanapan natin ng paraan but not at the expense of people’s health,” Go said.

“Uunahin ko ang health ng bawat Pilipino kesa sa buwis na makokolekta natin,” he said.

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Senator Francis Tolentino earlier lauded Duterte’s ban on e-cigarettes, saying it was “consistent” with recommendations from medical studies.

“We should prohibit them until they are scientifically-proven to be safe,” he said.

Cayetano has yet to respond to ABS-CBN’s request for her comment on the issue.

The President earlier urged the Senate to immediately pass Senate Bill 1047, which sought to raise some P47.9 billion to fund a P59.1-billion funding gap for universal health care.

The House of Representatives reportedly dropped a counterpart bill that could raise about P1.2 billion in e-cigarette taxes.

The Palace has yet to release a document implementing Duterte’s verbal order against e-cigarettes.

The President issued the ban days after a 16-year-old girl from the Visayas allegedly obtained respiratory injuries due to the use of e-cigarettes.