Legislators urged to lower sugar sweetened beverage taxes

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CONSUMER advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines has joined the mounting calls to minimize the impact of the sugar-sweetened beverage taxes to poor consumers in House Bill 5636, currently pending in the Senate.

Should the bill be passed into law, its repercussions will “significantly impact the lives of millions, of low-income Filipino consumers,” said lawyer Tim Abejo, CitizenWatch convenor.

“It’s really the low-income earners who consume these products— powdered juice drinks, carbonated softdrinks and other beverages— on a daily basis, and higher prices could take a toll on their everyday expenses as once inexpensive products become suddenly unaffordable,” he explained.

The House-approved version of the proposed tax measure, part of the government’s banner tax-reform program called Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN, imposes P10 per liter for drinks containing purely locally produced sugar and P20 on beverages with imported sugar or sweeteners.

This can drive the prices of goods to double or even triple their current prices, for instance just think of a 1-liter sachet powdered juice now at P9 suddenly sold at P30. Consumers sari-sari store and carinderia owners will all take a big hit, Abejo warned.

He cited the over 300,000 signatures gathered by the Philippine Association of Stores and Carinderia Owners (Pasco) from across the country in opposition of the so-called “sweet tax.”

“According to Pasco, the proposed tax measure will likely result in the loss of 40 [percent] to50 percent of the total income of the 1.3 million sari-sari store owners,” Abejo said.

He added that CitizenWatch suppor ts the more consumer friendly proposal by Sen. JV Ejercito to lower the sugar-sweetened beverage taxes, including, among others, three centavos (P0.03) per gram of sugar on sweetened beverages using purely caloric sweeteners except for those using purely coconut-sap sugar.

“While our organization recognizes the avowed rationale of this tax measure, the social-economic equity implications has far-reaching consequences than its supposed health concern,” Abejo said.

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