300,000 urge Senate to dissolve proposed tax on sugary drinks
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved the third and final reading of a landmark bill that aims to restructure the country’s tax system.
The reforms, which cover amendments in key areas such as income, consumer goods, fuel, and real estate, aim to make taxes “simpler, fairer, and lower” for Filipinos.
Before it gets signed into law, the Senate has to convene a bicameral conference committee with the House of Representatives, due to discrepancies in their respective approved versions.
However, the Philippine Association of Stores and Carinderia Owners (PASCO) continues to oppose one portion of the bill – the so-called sugar tax, which will increase the price of sugar-sweetened commodities such as soft drinks, energy drinks, and iced tea.
PASCO recently gathered 300,000 signatures to oppose this additional tax. Although the group supports the overall tax reform, they are against the provisions on sugary drinks, which they have dubbed as “anti-poor.”
According to the group’s computations, 40% of the average sari-sari store owner’s daily income come from sales of sweetened drinks. PASCO adds that the proposal will make these products more expensive and therefore less appealing to ordinary consumers.
“Paano na lamang po ang kabuhayan namin kapag naisabatas na ang dagdag buwis na ito? Nangangamba kami na tuluyan nang mawawala ang aming maliliit na negosyo,” PASCO said in a statement. (What will happen to our livelihood once the additional tax gets passed into law? We fear that our small businesses will die.)
Amend, not remove
Consumer groups such as CitizenWatch and BK3 (Bantay Konsumer, Kalsada, Kuryente) have rallied behind the store owners, and called on the government to amend the proposed taxes.
So far, it seems like the Senate has listened.
In the Senate-approved version of the bill, in the first two years of the reform, drinks with caloric and non-caloric sweeteners will be taxed at P4.50 per liter, while those with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) will be taxed at P9 per liter. 3-in-1 coffee and milk products have also been added to the list items exempt from this additional tax.
This actually differs from the original version of the bill approved by the House of Representatives, which imposes a tax of P10 per liter for beverages using purely local sugar, and P20 per liter for beverages using HFCS.
The groups also urged the government to focus on other revenue-generation initiatives such as going into public-private-partnerships for infrastructure, fighting corruption, and cracking down on smuggling and other illicit trade activities.
What’s your take on the issue? Do you think that sugary drinks should still be included in the tax reform package? Share your opinions below. – Rappler.com