By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
House ways and means committee chair Joey Salceda has turned down the proposed lifting of liquor ban in areas that are still under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) so that government can tap sin tax revenues to funds its ongoing social amelioration program.
According to Salceda, lifting liquor ban in areas under ECQ is “not a good policy” considering that the country is in the middle of health emergency brought by coronavirus pandemic.
Salceda stressed that “alcohol is a cause of main comorbidities” like hypertension and obesity—people which are more prone to be infected by the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Several posts circulating various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are calling for lifting of liquor ban in the National Capital Region (NCR) and other areas that are still under the ECQ policy so that the national government can use six tax earnings programs and stimulus packages which are beneficial for those badly hit by the Luzon lockdown.
Salceda warned that “P1 of liquor tax covers only 47 percent of additional health costs due to alcohol.”
Instead of lifting the liquor ban, Salceda said he was in favor of reopening of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) as government’s “source of revenues for health” during this pandemic period.
“Health first, revenues next. So panalo ang POGO kasi negative on human welfare ang alcohol eh. Health costs is greater than revenues,” said Salceda.
According to Salceda, POGOs could be a source of much-needed funds for testing and hospitalization for COVID-19, “provided that there is adequate enforcement of tax laws and regulations.”
Salceda stressed that the monthly tax take from POGOs could reach as high as P2 billion if POGOs are allowed to resume at this moment, adding that the reopening of offshore gaming hubs can be an opportunity for the government “to collect tax liabilities.”
Salceda, principal author of a fiscal regime for POGOs under House Bill No. 5267 said his proposed tax system for foreign offshore gaming hubs can generate as much as P45 billion on its first year alone, compared to last year’s revenue of about P6 billion.
Under HB 5267, POGO operators are required to pay a five percent tax “on gross receipts from their operations covered by the law granting their franchise.”