Portion of tax on sweetened drinks eyed to fund ‘First 1,000 Days’ program
Senator Grace Poe wants portions of the excise taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks to be earmarked to the “First 1,000 Days program,” which provides support to a child’s most crucial stage of development.
During the plenary debates on Senate Bill No. 1592 or the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act Monday, Poe moved to include the health initiative that “provides natal care program for expectant mothers and health care and feeding program for toddlers.”
“Will the good sponsor agree that the tax on sweetened beverages should also fund programs for the first 1,000 days of a child or the programs that will benefit mothers and children from 0 to 2 years old since this is the most crucial period?” Poe asked Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means.
Angara, principal sponsor of the first tranche of the administration’s tax reform package, agreed to Poe’s proposal, saying “it should be one of the priorities of government.”
“We would welcome any amendment that Sen. Poe has in mind regarding the earmarking. I think it would strengthen the bill if the legislator has her inputs into all of these provisions,” said Angara.
“The earmarking really is to strengthen that link with the people so that they feel some kind of solidarity with the measure in that they know that it is going to a good cause and the susceptibility to corruption and misspending is not there,” he added.
Under the measure, 50 percent of incremental revenues from the sweetened beverage tax should be allocated to health programs for the bottom 10 million poorest households.
The move, Poe said, aims to address obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases resulting from the intake of sweetened beverages; dialysis wards in government hospitals; school-based supplemental nutrition programs and provision of water fountains in public schools; and supplemental feeding programs for children and adults in areas with high incidence of hunger.
Poe said the remaining revenues from sweetened beverages, meanwhile, should be allocated to the emergency employment and training of displaced workers in the sweetened beverage industry and a bevy of state programs such as phased implementation of Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education.
It will also benefit the provision of free technical and vocation education, expansion of the universal primary care benefit package implemented by the state health insurer, free medicines in government-run hospitals, social pension for all senior citizens, and grant financing to local government units, among others, the senator said.
Poe, author of Senate Bill No. 161 or the proposed First 1,000 Days Act, said she would introduce the amendment when the Senate considers the measure for individual amendments.
She pointed out that a total of P269.943-million budget for the First 1,000 Days program was allocated in the proposed 2018 spending plan under the National Nutrition Council, an attached agency of the Department of Health. /idl
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