AN association of micro-retailers reiterated its strong objection to the proposed tax reform bill pushed by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, saying the passage of the measure would unduly burden the poor.
In an open letter addressed to Duterte, members of the Philippine Association of Stores and Carinderia Owners (Pasco) appealed to the President not to pass the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) bill, particularly the provision imposing excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
“We understand and support our government’s need to raise money for its various social and infrastructure programs to help improve the lives of the Filipino people and sustain the country’s economic growth. But we appeal to you, please do not let this bill pass,” the group said.
The bill, according to Pasco, is anti-poor and would only be a burden to small micro-retailer, consumers, sugar farmers, and manufacturing plant workers.
The tax reform measure recently passed by the House of Representatives (HOR) includes a provision imposing a P10 excise tax on every liter of sugar-sweetened beverages containing locally produced sugar, while others will be taxed P20 per liter.
Based on the price survey of the Finance department, the retail prices of a liter of leading soda drink Coca-Cola will increase from P22 to P34; sachet prices of powdered drinks such as iced tea and fruit drinks will increase from P9 to P20 while three-in-one coffee mixes from P5 to P8.
Pasco expressed fears that the bill, once enacted into law, will adversely affect the livelihood of small store owners considering that 30 to 40 percent of the income of sari-sari store owners comes from the sale of coffee, juice and carbonated drinks.
The Senate ways and means committee, chaired by Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara had come up with a version that is more reasonable and effective in encouraging Filipinos to consume healthier drinks.
Instead of the P10 excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, Angara lowered the rate to P5 per liter for the first two years of implementation of the bill as proposed by the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines.
The move will allow the Food and Drug Administration to build its capacity to boost its manpower and put in place the equipment needed for a sugar content-based taxation for the succeeding years.
According to Angara, imposing excise tax based on sugar content, rather than per liter, would be more reasonable.
Under the senate version, plain milk, infant formula, powdered, ready to drink and fermented milk with less than five grams of sugar per 100 milliliters will be exempted from the additional tax.
The senate also spared three-in-one coffee mixes as well as 100 percent natural fruit and vegetable juices, unsweetened tea, meal replacement and medically indicated beverages from the Train bill.
“Why are they taxing the simple things that make our customers happy and not tax the sweetened beverages that rich people buy in restaurants and expensive grocery stores?” Pasco said.
In June, PASCO officials also wrote the President, making a similar plea for him to reconsider imposing additional taxes, especially on sugar-sweetened beverages.
The Train is expected to generate more than P140 billion in revenues to fund the government’s various infrastructure, health and education programs.