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WHO hails Philippine move to raise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages

The measure provides a 14 per cent increase in price for caloric and non-caloric sweetened beverages

Gulf News

Manila: The World Health Organisation praised the Philippine government for imposing higher taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks, saying that the move was a “great step forward in protecting the health of Filipinos”.

“The WHO commends the Philippines as it passed a landmark law today with new tax provisions for sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB),” the world body said, adding the initiative makes Philippines the first country in Asia to introduce SSB tax in its national agenda.

SSBs are drinks with added sugar, which included soft drinks, sports and energy drinks and sweetened juice drinksthat provide unnecessary or empty calories with little or no nutrition.

The measure that made higher taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks possible, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act was ordered implemented recently by President Rodrigo Duterte. It provides a Peso 6 per litre (Dhs 0.438) tax (approximately 14 per cent increase in price) for caloric and non-caloric sweetened beverages

“Evidence has shown that SSB tax can reduce consumption of sugars and help prevent overweight, obesity, and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In the Philippines, overweight and obesity rates have been steadily increasing and diabetes and cardiovascular disease now cause four out of every 10 deaths among Filipinos,” it said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr said WHO’s statement is a resounding affirmation that the government is making the right moves.

“With this development, we hope to contribute to our national health agenda and hopefully prevent the risks associated with overweight and obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and tooth decay,” Roque said during a palace press briefing.

He added that the SSB excise tax, as a health measure, will encourage the public to make healthy choices to ensure a healthier and more productive lifestyle.

Aside from direct effects on the health of Filipinos, the move will also aid the country in addressing concerns over tooth decay.

“With 87 per cent of Filipinos suffering from tooth decay, the reduction of sugars intake will also reduce this risk. The revenue to be generated from the SSB taxation also has the potential to be utilised for health-promoting purposes,” WHO added.

It added that as per experience of countries that imposed higher taxes on SSBs, the decision showed positive results in improving the health and well-being of people.

“Mexico, for instance, implemented 10 per cent excise tax on SSBs in 2014 and demonstrated an average reduction of 7.6 per cent in purchases of taxed beverages in its first two years of implementation. The reduction in consumption is predicted to have positive impacts on health outcomes and reductions in health care expenses in Mexico,” WHO said.

Aside from increased taxing on sugared beverage, other reforms under TRAIN law include higher taxes on tobacco products, alcohol, motor vehicles, fossil fuels, among others.

Proceeds from these tax measures will be used to finance the government’s ambitious infrastructure expansion projects to address traffic congestion through better mass transport and new road networks.

It will also be used to construct military infrastructure, sports facilities and public schools and potable drinking water supply in all public places, improve facilities for education and increase pay for teachers, among others.

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