By Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri is proposing a three-tiered tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) which, he said, will not be harmful to the sugar industry as well as the poor.
Zubiri urged the Senate committee on ways and means, chaired by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, to consider a maximum excise tax of only P5 on SSBs in its review of the government’s comprehensive tax reform package or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN).
“We want to earn government revenue through the sugar tax, but, we don’t want to kill the industry,” Zubiri said.
Instead of the proposed P10-per-liter excise tax on SSBs, Zubiri said the tax should be based on sugar content.
For Tier 1, he said the sweetened beverages containing sugar of zero to five grams per liter should be exempt from the excise tax. For Tier 2, drinks with six to 12 grams of sugar per liter should be charged P3, while for Tier 3, it should be P5 for those with 13 grams or more per liter.
Or, should the government base on volume, excise tax on beverages containing locally-produced sugar should be P5 per liter. Others which contain imported sugar and sweeteners should be imposed a P20-per-liter excise tax.
Zubiri, in his proposal, said that he also supports the position of doctors to stop excessive sugar consumption which causes the rising incidence of diabetes, obesity, and dental caries among the many health issues.
“I also believe the tax rates to be adopted should also push my advocacy for the avoidance of cancer-causing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS),” he added.
He, however, said that an excessively high sugar tax could potentially lead to the collapse of the sugar industry, displacement of hundreds of thousands of farmers and mill workers and hunger of at least 5 million Filipinos heavily dependent on the sugar industry.
“I will support this feature of the TRAIN believing we are imposing a health tax that is not anti-poor through a three-tiered SSB tax scheme,” he said.
The House of Representatives last May passed the House Bill 5636 which pushes to impose a P10-per-liter tax on sugar-sweetened products. The Senate has yet to pass its version of the TRAIN.
The DOF earlier said it is amenable to lowering the excise tax to P5 per liter.
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