More harm than good from ‘asin tax’ — solon

November 04, 2019
Janette Garin

IMPOSING higher taxes on salty food will do more harm than good, a former health secretary said.

Iloilo Rep. Janet Loreto-Garin, who served as Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) during the Aquino administration, has expressed strong objection to the proposal of Health Secretary Francisco Duque to impose higher taxes on daing, tuyo and other kinds of dried-salty food.

The DOH said it was considering proposing  taxes on salty food products in light of a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report that revealed the salt consumption of Filipinos exceeds WHO recommendations.

But Garin said salt has played a vital role in the lives Filipinos and in their diet thus DOH should re-examine its bid to slap higher taxes on salty foods

“Salt, used moderately, aids our digestion and excretion. The unique identification of any Filipino household is marked with having salt in our kitchen and eating tuyo, daing and bagoong to name a few,” she said.

“While it is laudable for public health’s sake to push for a measure that will tax food products with high amounts of salt, this effort to encourage Filipino families to buy healthier options will stretch the budget of every household. We have to understand that many Filipinos do not have refrigerators in their houses, so essentially, they will buy salted fish to preserve it for the next few days,” she added.

The House Deputy Minority Leader also said the DOH’s proposal will a have negative effect on the livelihood of  fishermen and their families, consequently making salty food less affordable for every Juan and Maria.

“If we are really concerned about addressing the excessive consumption of salt as a health issue, it is high time for us to revisit the implementation of Republic Act No. 8172, otherwise known as ASIN Law. RA No. 8172 was enacted to address the lack of micronutrients in the country, and after more than 20 years of its passage, a probe is necessary to discuss solutions that are relevant not just to health, but also the preservation of culture and means of livelihood for those families who depend on the local salt industry,” she stressed.

Garin said that government should take a closer look if previous legislations on the utilization and use of excise taxes from alcohol and tobacco has transcended into better health care for Filipinos. 

“Not to mention the PhilHealth fraud, unnecessary seminars and trainings, administrative costs on programs which are not implemented, and poor utilization funds that forced the DBM to slash the budget of the health agency,” she said.

“We should not only think of taxes. We should also assess whether taxes collected for health are really making a difference. We have seen the positive effects of increasing sin taxes only in terms of revenue, but what about for the health of our fellow countrymen? Our public health system must not be treated as a political tool but rather as a means to make every Filipino healthy,” the lady solon added.