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Sugar millers push back vs proposed tax increase on sweetened products

THE sugar industry urged President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to improve tax collection efficiency rather than imposing a tax increase on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB).

In a letter dated July 6, Philippine Sugar Millers Association, Inc. President Pablo L. Lobregat said Congress has already adopted a two-tier excise tax system for SSB “for well-intentioned reasons.”

“If the government needs additional revenue to fund poverty alleviation programs, the Department of Finance (DoF) should instead consider intensifying its efforts to ensure compliance with existing two-tier SSB excise structure,” he said.

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act or TRAIN law sets a P6 per liter tax for drinks containing caloric or non-caloric sweeteners and a P12 per liter tax for drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

The DoF has proposed to raise the excise tax on all sweetened beverages to P12  via a TRAIN amendment, regardless of the type of sweetener used.

Mr. Lobregat said the collection of the SSB tax at source — from the production facilities of beverage manufacturers and in supermarkets and groceries — has not been “thoroughly enforced.”

“It is important to note that sugar production in our country primarily involves our farmers and workers in the provinces,” Mr. Lobregat said.

“In contrast, HFCS is entirely imported at significantly cheaper prices, primarily due to government subsidies to corn production by HFCS exporting nations,” he added.

Mr. Lobregat said that the proposal “signals a significant shift in policy” which would favor the use of imported sweetener.

“Increasing the excise tax on sugar-using beverages will only serve to promote the use of HFCS in beverages, but will not benefit the domestic food industry,” he said.

He noted that the proposed increase in SSB tax will only benefit some beverage manufacturers “at the expense of Filipino farmers and workers.” — Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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