MANILA, Aug. 10— The Sin Tax Coalition, which supported the passage of the Sin Tax Reform Act or Republic Act 10351, is calling for pro-poor programs that would be funded by the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) included in the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act currently in the Senate.
“We are supporting the SSB tax because we believe that it will address the double burden of malnutrition in the country — rising obesity and chronic undernutrition,” pulmonologist and executive director of the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Dr. Maricar Limpin, said in a recent interview.
Limpin said the government can use the funds to be generated from the SSB tax to address undernutrition in the country, for instance by sponsoring school-led feeding programs that would offer a healthy diet for the poor.
“Kasi lumalabas po sa ngayon, mas mura pa ang mga salty at sugary products kaysa mga prutas at mga gulay (It appears that salty and sugary products are more affordable than fruits and vegetables),” she pointed out.
To reduce the high cost of fruits and vegetables, Limpin suggested that the government do away with middle men involved in the distribution of produce to markets.
She further said that it would be better for the government to buy the produce from the farmers, just like what it is doing through the National Food Authority (NFA).
This way, the poor would be able to afford fruits and vegetables, she said, adding that making health food affordable would help the public adopt a healthier diet, which in turn would mean less spending on the treatment of lifestyle diseases.
This was seconded by Philippine Heart Association president, Dr. Jorge Sison, who said that taxing SSB and salty food would force manufacturers to reduce the sugar and salt content of their products.
“This is also an awakening to Filipinos who have been consuming diets that are high in salt and sugar and who have been smokers for the longest time. This is about saving every Filipino from silent killers,” said Sison.
He cited that sugar, just like salt and cigarettes, is considered a “silent killer” because it leads to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Explaining his point, he said excessive sugar metabolizes quickly, transforming it into fat.
Sugar, salt and cigarettes, coupled with emotional stress and an unhealthy lifestyle, are all detrimental to the heart, Sison said.