House approves bill that removes uniform cigarette tax

Mara Cepeda
House approves bill that removes uniform cigarette tax
The House of Representatives passes the bill despite opposition from the Department of Finance

MANILA, Philippines – The bill seeking to impose a two-tier excise tax structure on cigarettes hurdled its 3rd and final reading at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 13.

Voting 176-30-3, lawmakers approved House Bill 4144, the bill that would amend Section 145 (c) of the National Internal Revenue Code. 

The bill proposes that a pack of cigarettes with a net retail price of P11.50 and below would be taxed P32, while cigarette packs that cost more than P11.50 would be taxed P36.

After hurdling the House, the measure will now be transmitted to the Senate, where it will go through 3 readings and, if passed, will be submitted to the Office of the President for signing. 

If enacted, HB 4144 would block the full implementation of Republic Act 10351 or the landmark Sin Tax Reform Law of 2012 passed under the Aquino administration. 

RA 10351 mandates that a unitary tax rate of P30 be imposed on all cigarette packs – regardless of price – by 2017. (READ: Bloomberg lauds PH for sin tax law

The House committee on ways and means, chaired by Quirino Representative Dakila Cua, first approved HB 4144 on December 5. It was approved on second reading two days later.

Cua previously said that, if implemented, HB 4144 would be generating an additional P14 billion in government revenue from excise tax on cigarettes for the first year of its implementation.

The measure was approved by the House of Representatives despite “strong” opposition by the Department of Finance (DOF), which would be implementing bill if passed into law.

In a position paper submitted to the ways and means panel, the DOF said “social equity and social justice” for the tobacco farmers must be done not by changing the excise tax rate but by properly allocating the budget.

According to the DOF, the tax differentiation is also “not germane” to the principle behind RA 10351, which the department described as a “health measure” with a primary goal of curbing tobacco, particularly among the youth and the poor.

The department argued that cigarettes should not be made more affordable through a two-tier tax differentiation, given their ill-effects on health.

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.