Senator Sonny Angara said he is considering a fairer and more reasonable excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which would be more effective in curbing the prevalence of diabetes and obesity in the country.
The tax reform measure recently passed by the House of Representatives (HOR) includes a provision imposing a P10 excise tax on every liter of sugar-sweetened beverages containing locally produced sugar, while others will be taxed P20 per liter.
Instead of taxing P10 every liter, Angara is looking into imposing excise tax depending on the sugar content of the beverage.
“Sabi ng mga eksperto, kung kalusugan ang pinag-uusapan at para mabawasan talaga ang konsumo ng asukal ng mga Pilipino, dapat yung buwis ay nakabase doon sa laman na asukal ng inumin,” said Angara, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee.
The veteran legislator also noted that a P10-excise tax might be too high, as this would jack up the prices of some sugary drinks by 50 percent.
Based on the latest price survey of the Department of Finance (DOF), the retail prices of a 1L Coca-Cola bottle will increase from P22 to P34; sachet prices of powdered drinks Nestea, Tang or Eight O’ Clock will increase from P9 to P20; 3-in-1 coffee from P5 to P8.
Under the bill, sugar-sweetened beverages include sweetened juice drinks, tea and coffee; all carbonated beverage with added sugar; flavored water; energy drinks; sports drinks; powdered drinks not classified as milk, juice, tea and coffee; cereal and grain beverages; and other non-alcoholic beverages that contain sugar.
“Ang kadalasang kumokunsumo ng mga inuming ito ay mga ordinaryong mamamayan na talagang mararamdaman ang pagtaas ng presyo. We might be unfairly targeting the poor,” the seasoned lawmaker said.
“Karamihan sa kanila ay maaaring hindi naman makinabang sa pagbaba ng income tax dahil exempted na sila ngayon bilang minimum wage earners. Tataas ang kanilang gastusin, wala naman dagdag kita,” added the youthful senator, who made the same comment on the proposed hike in excise taxes on oil, which could result to higher fares and prices of basic goods.
The HOR-approved tax reform package aims to lower income taxes of middle income earners, while limiting value added tax (VAT) exemptions and adjusting excise taxes on oil, automobiles, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
According to the Philippine Association of Stores and Carinderia Owners (PASCO), 80 percent of the consumers of these products are low-income earners.
Data from PASCO also showed that 30-40 percent of the income of sari-sari store owners comes from the sale of coffee, juice and carbonated drinks.
Meanwhile, the Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines (BIAP) said that such move would result to a P20-billion decline in sales of sugar-sweetened beverages.
“While we recognize the health benefits of the proposed sugar tax, this could hurt the poor consumers, the retailers, and the beverage and sugar industries. Lalo na po ang kabuhayan ng ating maliliit na mga negosyante, mga may-ari ng sari-sari stores, mga magsasaka at iba pang mga manggagawa na maaapektuhan dito,” the Angara said.
While the DOF estimates that additional revenue can range from P40 to P47 billion, Usec. Karl Chua stressed that the inclusion of sugar tax is not primarily intended to generate more revenues but it is a health measure meant to discourage consumers in buying unhealthy drinks.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increases the risk of developing health problems such as blood sugar disorders, obesity, diabetes, and other related diseases like bone fractures, hyperacidity, tooth decay and heart problems.
“Pagaaralan po natin nang mabuti ang panukala na ito upang masiguro na hindi magiging pabigat ang pagtaas ng presyo. We will work closely with our fellow senators and government agencies, especially the DOF and DOH, to come up with a pro-people reform,” he said.