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Learn first, Chavit tells Pacquiao

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Close as they are as boxing denizens, veteran politician and presently Narvacan, Ilocos Sur Mayor Chavit Singson, however, warned Senator Manny Pacquiao against running for the presidency, saying it takes more than popularity to run a country.

“Manny Pacquiao still lacks the experience to go for the presidency of our country. It’s hard to be president when you don’t have enough experience. One mistake and you may end up causing a war. You learn first,” Singson told his erstwhile close friend and senator in a telephone interview with this writer.

Singson and Pacquiao have been inseparable in almost all of the boxing superstar’s fights abroad. The former considers the political kingpin as a longtime friend and confidante.

The former Ilocos Sur governor, in fact, has revealed that the boxing icon once personally sought his help when Manny and his wife Jinkee weren’t on good terms sometime in 2011.

There were even speculations when Singson jumped to the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) that Pacquiao would follow suit and change parties for his long-time friend and backer.
But all these changed recently.

Singson, who is the national president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, strongly opposed the proposal of Pacquiao to impose another round of taxes on cigarette products, saying “We can’t afford to levy more tax. The entire industry would collapse.”

Singson said that the cigarette taxes have been increased nine times and that imposing another will already affect the tobacco industry, one of the major sources of income by the national government.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said yesterday that some 3.6 million tobacco farmers are depending on the industry.

Senator Pacquiao’s proposal will certainly earn the ire of the millions of tobacco farmers in the country.

Singson, who authored Republic Act 7171 providing excise tax to the tobacco producing provinces when he was a congressman, pointed out that imposing additional tobacco taxes will kill the industry and that the senator does not probably know this.

Singson’s authored law has paved the way for the economic development of Ilocos Sur and neighboring provinces including Ilocos Norte, Abra, La Union and Pangasinan, such as the construction of farm-to-market roads, multi-purpose buildings, concreted roads, among others, making the province one of the most developed in terms of infrastructures.

“Although imposing increase in tobacco taxes will give more share to the province, this will definitely kill the tobacco industry; it will not be able to hang on. The tobacco industry is bound to die,” said Singson in a telephone interview.

Close friends
Chavit and Pacquiao have been close friends for two decades but lately have come at loggerheads because of their respective stands anent the tobacco taxes. Their rift is expected to further worsen as the former expressed his support on the presidential bid of Davao city mayor Sarah Duterte while turning his back on the latter.

The Department of Finance said that more than P100B was collected last year from tobacco and that the tobacco excise tax collection for 1 January to 18 February, this year alone, amounted to P29.1 billion.

But tobacco farmers in the North cried foul over the series of increase in taxes of their products, saying the government lacks support which is one of the major sources of revenue by the country.

A number of tobacco farmers did not plant tobacco anymore in past years due to poor prices of their products. They blamed the government for lack of concern to them and tobacco traders for manipulating the prices.

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