DOH seeks higher taxes on sweetened beverages, junk food
MANILA, Philippines — After getting P155 billion from sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol products, the Department of Health (DOH) now wants to slap additional excises, this time on sweetened beverages, junk food and “nonstaple” food high in salt and fat purportedly to control obesity in the country.
At a press conference on Friday, Maria Rosario Vergeire, officer in charge of DOH, said that the Sin Tax Law, which slapped taxes on alcoholic drinks, traditional tobacco and heated tobacco products, is part of the DOH’s strategies to be able to regulate the “sustained increase” of lifestyle-related risk factors, such as obesity.
“The [lifestyle-related] risk factors in the country are high—there is smoking, alcohol intake—and so now, we will [urge that] sweetened beverages and junk food be added [in the law],” Vergeire told reporters.
These risk factors, she said, would lead to obesity, which then could make people prone to noncommunicable diseases. Among the noncommunicable diseases known to be among the leading causes of death in the Philippines are heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and cancer.
According to the health official, the number of obese individuals in the country remained on an uptrend from 31 percent of the population in 2015 to 37 percent in 2018.
“This is already a public health concern because we know that they are at high risk to develop these diseases,” Vergeire pointed out.
She said Republic Act No. 10351, or the Sin Tax Reform Act of 2012, was able to decrease the prevalence of smoking among Filipinos from 31 percent of the population in 2008 to 20 percent in 2019.
The health agency is also studying the amount it will from the proposed excises on sweetened drinks and junk food for the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law, which was signed in 2019.
For this year’s budget, 59 percent of the total DOH budget, or about P155 billion, came from sin tax collection, Vergeire said.
“This is what we want to see as well in the coming years, that these sin taxes would fund the different interventions that we do to provide universal healthcare for everybody,” she added.
Aside from the amendment of the sin tax law, the DOH also proposed other priority legislations for the health sector in the next six years such as the creation of the Philippine Center for Disease and Prevention Control, Public Health Emergencies and Emerging and Re-emerging Diseases Response Act, eHealth System and Services Act, Drugs and Medicines Price Regulation Act and salary standardization for Human Resources for Health Network.
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