Salt tax needs ‘thorough’ discussions

Published November 2, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Chino S. Leyco

The Department of Finance (DOF) would not immediately pull the trigger to support the Department of Health’s (DOH) proposal to impose the so-called “sin” tax on salty products.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III (DOF photo / Howard Felipe)
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III (DOF photo / Howard Felipe)

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said he has yet to discuss with the DOH the planned introduction of excise taxes on salt and salty products, which was proposed by Secretary Francisco T. Duque III earlier this week.

Dominguez said the finance department needs to “thoroughly” discuss the controversial “asin” tax with the health officials.

But as early as now, Albay Second District Rep. José María Clemente “Joey” S. Salceda, who chairs the House ways and means committee, immediately thumbed down the proposal being initiated by the DOH.

Salceda explained the DOH proposal “will be inflationary and highly regressive,” but suggested “a more logical alternative” to salt levy like the “junk food tax.”

Duque had raised the possibility of a salt tax to address the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCD).

He cited the rising incidence of end-stage renal failure and hypertension, among other NCDs, as being caused by high consumption of salt.

The health chief claimed the country’s economy suffers a big dent of ₱756.5 billion due to NCDs affecting millions of Filipinos.

“There is a world of difference between alcohol and cigarettes versus sugar and salt,” said Salceda when he learned about Duque’s proposal.

While Salceda was taking cognizance of the DOH and World Health Organization (WHO) warnings of negative health impacts of high salt consumption, “we are also concerned that this will constitute a tax on the entire food item.”

“Take the highest level of care when it comes to taxing food, especially when we are targeting specific items like sugar and salt which are only one of its many ingredients – many of which are beneficial to health,” Salceda said.

He stressed that aside from being inflationary and highly regressive, the proposed tax measure will aggravate the ongoing pork supply problem triggered by the African swine fever scare.

“At this point, while the House Committee on Ways and Means is primordially averse to any tax on food, it will examine instead a junk food tax since the consumptive logic of such eating habit is more obvious and pernicious to a most vulnerable population segment – our young people,” he said.