Fellow member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have recognized the Philippines’ excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law as a successful fiscal policy intervention that aims to attain their collective goal of nurturing a healthier society in the region, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).
Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran reported at a recent DOF Executive Committee (ExeCom) meeting that during one of the ASEAN meetings held in Indonesia in July, officials from Malaysia and Singapore expressed interest in studying how the Philippines had successfully implemented its SSB tax so that they could also possibly impose a similar tax as a health measure.
“This was during the ASEAN Interpillar Consultation Meeting for the Reformulation and Production of Healthy Food and Beverages held in Semarang, Indonesia. During the meeting, the ASEAN Member-States recognized the passage of sweetened beverage tax as a successful fiscal policy intervention to achieve a healthier society in the ASEAN region,” Beltran said in his report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III during the Execom meeting.
Starting January last year, the Philippine government implemented an excise tax on sugary drinks equivalent to P6 per liter for beverages using purely caloric sweeteners and a higher P12 per liter for those using high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), as mandated under TRAIN.
This SSB tax helped lower the consumption of sweetened beverages by an average of 6.5 percent, with powdered concentrates registering the highest decline at 25 percent, based on the 2018 data from Euromonitor on the sales of beverage companies in the Philippines, Beltran said.
Beltran said the attendance of the DOF at the meeting, where the Department of Health (DOH) was the head of the Philippine delegation, was upon the request of the Indonesian Ministry of Health.
The meeting discussed the health challenges facing ASEAN and its peoples, which is the continuous increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, he said.
“In addressing this, the ASEAN Member-States (AMS) have prioritized the reformulation and production of healthier food and beverage options as one of the key strategies to be implemented,” Beltran said.
Beltran said the meeting’s main output was a Draft Action Plan of ASEAN Health Ministers on the reformulation of and production of healthier food and beverages through the implementation of policy interventions such as taxation.
The meeting was part of the project activity of the ASEAN on achieving its goal of promoting a healthy lifestyle in the region, Beltran said.
Among ASEAN’s health priorities is the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, which was endorsed by the 12th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Health Development.
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