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Groups buck excise tax on salted products

MANILA, Philippines - A consumer advocacy alliance and a party-list group are opposing a proposal to impose new excise tax on the salt content of manufactured and processed foods.

Laban Konsyumer president and former trade undersecretary Victorio Dimagiba said the bill which has been filed in Congress is “very illtimed” given the ongoing debate on excise taxes on sugar sweetened beverages.

He said while the bill seeks to address health concerns surrounding too much salt intake among consumers, its proponent  should review and study the effective implementation of the ASIN Law which was passed in 1995.

“It is not all about collecting more moneyy from consumers to address health issue for that matter,” Dimagiba said.

Republic Act 8172 or the ASIN Law was signed in 1995 by then president Fidel Ramos. It seeks to promote the use of iodized salt and requires salt manufacturers to iodize the salts they produce.

Dimagiba, however, pointed out that the issue at present is not salt intake per se.

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“What has the National Nutrition Council done so  far after 20 years on the ASIN Law? It  is not all  about taxes.  The ASIN Law declared that the proper consumption of salt is a nutrition policy of the state. It requires that salt be iodized since it contains good nutrients for health especially for children . The law is being implemented by the National Nutrition Council,” he said. 

“What enforcement action were taken to address the use of industrial salt for human consumption.  Are salt ingredients of manufactured and processed foods in compliance with the National Nutrition Council guidelines.  And what is the status of the roadmap for the development of the salt industry to be at par with appropriate sanitation, environment and health issues?” added Dimagiba, noting that these are the issues that instead should be investigated and studied.

Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua is the proposed law’s principal author.

Similar to the excise tax sugar-sweetened beverage, the proposed levy on salted products is being presented as a health measure, aiming to discourage the consumption of products laden with salt.

“Salt is a silent killer, as its consumption has a correlation with high blood pressure, which consequently leads to increased risks of having a heart attack or stroke. Due to the harmful effects of salt, many countries have imposed a ‘sin tax’ on salt to deter people from consuming it. It is also a way for these states to pressure their people to adopt a healthier diet,” bill author Rep. Scott Davies Lanete of Masbate earlier said.

But Rep. Carlos Zarate of the Bayan Muna party-list group said the tax will mean additional suffering for the poor “who buy noodles, which to them is a complete food, instead of rice and meat  or chicken or fish.”

Noodles and sardines are among the salted products that would be covered by the proposed tax.

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