Consumers raise howl over junk food tax hike
Consumers, sugar millers and even an economist-congressman raised a howl over the government’s move to push forward plans to double excise on junk food and sweetened drinks.
Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Salceda said in a statement that the Ways and Means panel of the House of Representatives was not told of the government’s plan to push forward the increased excise scheduled for 2025.
Under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law enacted in 2017, an increase in excise on sweetened beverages is not due until 2025.
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman revealed on Wednesday that the rate increase was moved forward to fund the government’s P5.768-trillion budget for 2024.
Salceda said he and his colleagues are now “studying the best form of junk food tax, or whether to do it at all,” taking a discreet swipe at government attempts to use public health as a cover for taxes.
Salceda conceded that Filipinos do consume more salt than recommended by the World Health Organization, but “the highest proportion of excess salt in diets come from added salt in food and sauces and not necessarily ready-to-eat junk food.”
Salceda said their decision will “of course depend on data” and the implication of imposing more taxes on [food price] inflation.
Sugar millers, too
Sugar millers also complained that moving forward with higher excise on sweetened drinks may not be the best course of action at this time.
The Department of Finance (DOF) should instead focus on more efficient tax collection or raising tariffs on sugar, according to the Philippine Sugar Millers Association (PSMA).
“Instead of focusing on increasing tax rates, DOF should prioritize the enforcement of existing laws to ensure compliance and fairness,” PSMA executive director Jesus Barrera said in a statement on Friday.
Two consumer rights groups also asked the government to find alternative revenues and improve public health.
“The first thing that pushes the public’s attention towards heavy consumption of sweetened or salted food could be… the inaccessibility of cheaper, natural food,” the consumer group Rights Action Philippines said in a statement.
The government should focus on the availability of natural and homegrown food to divert public attention away from unhealthy food, the group added.
The Alliance of Concerned Consumers in the Philippines also opposed the new taxes and agreed with Salceda on finding other sources of revenue. INQ