Will the tax on sweetened beverages be effective in reducing obesity, diabetes in PH?

MANILA, Philippines - As a way to lessen the rising cases of obesity and diabetes in the country, a proposal pending for approval of President Rodrigo Duterte aims to impose higher taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

tax on sweetened beverages be effective in reducing obesity, diabetes in PH?

The tax reform measure known as House Bill 5636 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act includes a provision imposing a P10 tax on SSBs like coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks, powdered juice, bottled iced tea and other sugary drinks. With the imposition of such tax, consumers will be discouraged from buying these drinks.

At the same time, the government will have an additional revenue ranging from P40 billion to P47 billion, according to the Department of Finance.

READ: Is the SSB tax anti-poor

The Department of Health (DOH) warns consumers that consumption of SSBs elevates our risk of developing health problems like obesity, diabetes, blood sugar problems, heart problems as well as other related disease like tooth decay, hyperacidity and bone fractures.

meme beverage tax

That being said, is there enough evidence to prove that SSB tax will be effective in reducing cases of such diseases in the Philippines? Is it really that simple to address these health problems in the country? Will imposing this tax create a positive impact on our health?

Filipinos are not over consuming SSBs, sugar

Compared with other countries, Filipinos are actually not overconsuming SSBs. A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) together with AC Nielsen showed that Filipinos’ per capita consumption of non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverages (NARTD) is insignificant as compared to other countries.

Aside from less frequent consumption, NARTD come in smaller package size in the Philippines.

The study revealed that the Philippines has 160 servings/year per capita, which is far less compared to Mexico which has 600 servings/year per capita.

In addition, another study by the WHO and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute showed that sugar and syrup are an insignificant portion of the Filipino diet. In fact, sugar and syrup only comprise 1.9% of diet compared to cereals and products, which account for 41.9% of our diet.

filipino diet composition

Interestingly, consumption of white rice, which is our staple food in the Philippines, has been linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

No local studies have been carried out to prove that consumption of SSBs is directly correlated to obesity and diabetes. While SSBs can contribute to the development of such diseases, other foods like white rice can also play a big role in its development. Thus, more research must be carried out to discover the root causes of these health conditions in the Philippine setting.

Angara pushing for “fairer, more reasonable” SSB tax

With the approval of the tax reform measure at the House of Representatives, Senator Sonny Angara is pushing for a “fairer, more reasonable” SSB tax.

Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, believes that excise tax should be imposed depending on the sugar content of the beverage as opposed to taxing P10 every liter.

Angara explained: “According to experts, if we’re talking about health and want to reduce the sugar consumption of Filipinos, the tax must be based on the sugar content of the beverage.”

According to Angara, the P10 excise tax would jack up the prices of some SSBs by 50%. The lawmaker said that since majority of SSBs consumers are ordinary Filipinos, the SSB tax may be unfairly targeting the poor.

Not in favor of the imposition of SSB tax? You may support by convincing President Rodrigo Duterte that the SSB tax is anti-poor by signing this online petition.

-- Mini, The Summit Express

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