Health group lauds approval of “soda tax” in Congress

Public health policy think tank HealthJustice, recipient of the Bloomberg Award for Global Tobacco Control, welcomes the approval of the “soda tax” bill in the ways and means committee of the House of Representatives.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction. Three out of ten Filipinos are obese. Childhood obesity is likewise increasing. It does not help that soft drinks are still very cheap and accessible especially to children in school,” said Atty. Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice.

“The soda tax bill is a health promotion measure. We urge Congress to pass it as soon as possible,” Atty. Reyes added.

The World Health Organization in June of this year expressed alarm over the increasing prevalence of obesity in the country. The 8th National Nutrition Survey also revealed that the percentage of overweight children aged 5-10 in the Philippines rose from one percent in 1989 to five percent in 2013.

The proposed legislation will impose taxes on every kind of sugar-sweetened beverage, which is defined in the bill as “a non-alcoholic beverage that contains caloric sweeteners, added sugar, or artificial/non-caloric sweetener [that] may be in liquid or solid mixture, syrup, or concentrates that are added to water or other liquids to make a drink.”

For every liter of sugar-sweetened beverage, the bill seeks to impose a P10 tax, which will increase by 4% every year.

Carbonated drinks (soft drinks), tea, coffee, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and drinks of a similar kind in powder form are considered sugar-sweetened beverages.

“We commend Nueva Ecija Representative Estrellita Suansing for authoring this bill, which, if enacted into law, will also generate revenues for health, education and local governments,” said Atty. Reyes. Fifty percent of the revenues will go to the national treasury, while the other half will fund the health promotion programs of the Department of Health, Department of Education, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Food and Drug Administration, and Bureau of Internal Revenue.