DOH eyes ‘sin tax’ on salt to curb diseases
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - October 30, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — After tobacco and sugar, the government may soon impose higher taxes on salt.

To curb the high incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which is costing the country some P756 billion annually, the Department of Health (DOH) is considering increasing the levy on salty products.

“As we have seen the positive effects on increasing taxes on sin products, the same strategy might work also for excessive consumption of salt and we did the same thing for taxing sweetened beverages,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Duque noted that the high consumption of salt has already impacted the health of Filipinos as indicated by the rising incidence of end-stage renal failure, hypertension and other NCDs.

Based on the findings of the Philippine NCD Investment Case, the country’s economy incurs P756.5 billion annually due to NCDs. The figure includes the direct costs of NCDs associated with treatment but also the indirect “hidden” costs arising from reduced productivity in the workplace and premature death of the workforce.

Health officials said the “hidden” costs of NCDs are nine times higher than the direct costs.

Aside from the possibility of exacting higher taxes, Duque said the DOH is also looking into the possibility of coming out with “low-salt to no-salt” policy in food manufacturing.

Salt consumption in the Philippines is double the World Health Organization (WHO)’s recommended level.

United Nations Interagency Task Force on NCDs external relations officer Alexey Kulikov said the WHO’s recommended level is five grams of salt per day. The Philippines’ daily salt consumption is 11 grams per day.

Kulikov said other agencies are working to reduce salt consumption globally by reformulating contents of food products.

“They can do it gradually so it doesn’t damage the market share of these producers,” he said.

“There are many approaches to cut on salt and it is quite important that there is a dialogue between the government... private sector, specifically the producers,” he added.

Meanwhile, WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said excessive salt consumption is related directly to hypertension and cardiovascular problems, thus the need for countries to come out with measures to reduce salt intake among Filipinos.

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