Ex-Tinian senator Dela Cruz, three others oppose bill to increase of tobacco taxes


Victor B. Hocog

A bill that seeks to increase tobacco taxes, tie the tax rate to inflation, and invest revenues from the tax into health promotion and disease prevention faced strong opposition during a public hearing at the Tinian Courthouse last Wednesday.

At the hearing on House Bill 22-54 before the Senate Committee on Fiscal Affairs, all four who spoke, including former Tinian senator Jose M. Dela Cruz, opposed the legislation.

In reviewing the proposed legislation, Dela Cruz believes the timing is not right.

The House of Representatives had already passed the bill and it is now before the Senate Committee on Fiscal Affairs, chaired by Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota). Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) is the principal author of the legislation.

House Bill 22-54 seeks to update the definition of tobacco products in the CNMI’s excise tax laws; bring tobacco tax rates to the recommended level; set tobacco tax rates to increase with inflation; and invest tobacco revenues in health promotion and disease prevention and control programs in the CNMI.

Dela Cruz said this is not the first time the Legislature raised taxes for tobacco.

“We want to go back and try to look…if the data show that, by raising taxes on this product, it deters people from continuing to use it,” Dela Cruz said.

As everyone knows, he said, majority of products on Tinian already cost a lot and that the people are feeling the crunch. “So I feel that this is not the right time to do this at this point. So I totally object [to this bill],” Dela Cruz said.

Tinian Commerce resident director Susan Perez said she is not supporting the bill for one reason—economy. “So I am not supporting it as a business person myself. We need money for our economy. We need money for our island,” Perez said.

She said when people do not buy, businesses will not be able to have enough income and sales. “To make it short, no. I’m not supporting it,” Perez said.

Others who also spoke against the bill were David Evangelista and Guillermina Cepeda.

Saipan Tribune learned that there were some in attendance that have submitted their written testimony for the next public hearing on the bill on Saipan.

The committee also held a public hearing on Rota Tuesday, during which Mayor Efraim M. Atalig opposed it.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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