It's asin to tax salt food

(The Philippine Star) - November 28, 2019 - 12:00am

The Department of Health (DOH) said that it is considering imposing taxes on salted food, to quote health spokesperson and undersecretary Dr. Eric Domingo, “Ito ‘yung iniisip natin na pag-aralan na pagtataasan natin ang buwis sa salted food, maaaring magkaroon ito ng positive na outcome sa ating mga kalusugan.”

It was sweetened beverages that were initially taxed in Package 1 of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.  Now, it is a sin tax on salted foods.

The Philippine Medical Student Association (PMSA) wonders if the Philippine government is well aware that the country’s poor population subsists on a diet of heavily salted food like instant noodles, variety of dried fish such as tuyo, dilis, daing, fish crackers, “chicken inasal” crackers, canned sardines, soy sauce, patis and many more.  Yes, it is definitely not a healthy diet BUT these food products are the cheapest that poor families can afford. A pack of instant noodles, according to many mothers in urban poor communities, can feed the entire family for one meal; likewise, with a can of sardines or a pack of tuyo.

The PMSA is not against curbing the increase in the incidence of non-communicable diseases.  However, it disagrees with imposing another tax burden on the people, especially the poor, in the guise of these health concerns.

Why is it that to generate finances, the government always levies tax burdens that bleed dry the poor and ordinary people?  Instead of imposing new taxes on the people, the government should instead go after the big corporations that evade and cheat on paying taxes. Instead of further burdening the people, the government should address poverty and resolve the economic woes of Filipinos that drive them to a high sodium diet.  Increasing wages and salaries of workers and employees in both the public and private sectors can definitely allow families to buy healthier food on the table.

The DOH should not be playing the part of the Department of Finance or the Bureau of Internal Revenue. To curb the increase of non-communicable diseases, the DOH should focus on improving mass health education on health and nutrition, prevention of non-communicable diseases, and promotion of healthy lifestyle. The DOH should delve on the more serious problem of resolving the country’s health care crisis.  Instead of studying what to include in the sin taxes, it should seriously study how a free, quality health care under a unified healthy system can be availed and enjoyed by the Filipino people. 

– ANGEL ABRAHAM SISON, RMT, MPH, Interim Officer-in-Charge, Philippine Medical Students’ Association


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