Dateline Southeast Asia

Filipino lawmakers voice support for soda tax bill

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags: Tuna, Tax, Food

Support for a Philippines tax on sugary soft drinks to boost government coffers and rein in an increase in lifestyle is growing as legislation passes through parliament.

The measure would impose excise tax of PHP10 (US$0.02) on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) per litre, and cover all non-alcoholic beverages containing sugar that are ready to drink or in powder form. Natural fruit drinks, dairy products and weightloss formulas would be exempted.

Miro Quimbo, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, earlier in November passed the bill, which would amend the tax code on such drinks, and urged is colleagues to support the measure.

Alfred Vargas, the Quezon City representative offered his full support to the measure, telling the Manila Bulletin​: “It is not only the additional revenue of PHP34.5bn [US$733m] that would benefit each Filipino but, more so the savings one could get from avoiding sugar-related diseases in the long run​.

While corporations earn billions in this industry, millions of Filipinos suffer from its effects. This should stop. It is only right that this measure be passed into law​.”

Teddy Brawner Baguilat, representative for Ifugao, also added his support by stressing the impact sugary drinks have had on children’s weight. According to an official survey, 5% of Filipino children aged 5-10 are overweight. 

As a health measure, it’s commendable because diabetes is one of the top illnesses of Filipinos. Hopefully, this will lessen parents buying high-sugar drinks for their children,​” Baguilat said.

However, the bill has its opponents. Prominent Inquirer​ columnist Peter Wallace said it would set a “very dangerous precedent​” that could lead to increased taxes on other perceived unhealthy foods like ice cream, french fries and even white rice.

And earlier this year, the Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines hit out at proposals, saying a soda tax would “burden consumers, and hurt not only beverage makers but the economy​”.

It claimed the measure would lead to a drop in consumption that would hit VAT and corporation tax revenues.

Citing a University of Asia study, it claimed a soda tax would result in a net revenue loss to the government of an estimated PHP77.4bn (US$1.7bn).

However, Quimbo said the ways and means committee had passed the bill “primarily for its impact on health​”. 

Our hope is that people will start drinking water or milk, and developing potable water systems and having access to milk that’s more affordable. That’s where the revenues from the bill will go to​,” he said.

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Singapore puts emphasis on curbing widespread food wastage after 50% increase

As Singapore’s National Environment Agency launches a campaign to curb food wastage, it was revealed that residents each dumped roughly 150kg of food last year.

waste

A report commissioned by the NEA and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore found that the country collectively wasted 687,200 tonnes of food in 2014. 

It said that eight in 10 respondents were concerned about throwing away uneaten food, with 90% of them feeling that it was a waste of money.

Ronnie Tay, NEA’s chief executive, said: “The amount of food waste generated in Singapore has seen a 1.5-fold increase in the past 10 years​. 

While we work to reduce food waste disposed of through means such as food waste recycling and redistribution of unsold and excess food, the preferred approach remains that of preventing food wastage in the first place​. 

We encourage everybody to buy only what he needs, or order only what he can finish, and help save the environment and resources by reducing food wastage​,” he said.

Nevertheless, they said they were generally unwilling to compromise on freshness and absence of defects on food. Expired food, mouldy food and food that looked, smelled or tasted bad were the top three reasons given for throwing food away.

Concern for the environment "came a close second​,” the study reported.

To encourage people to cut food wastage, NEA is launching a campaign using posters and educational videos that compare the cost of food wastage, as well as other ways the equivalent money could be spent spent. These will be shown on digital and mobile media platforms, at bus-stop shelters, in newspapers and on TV. 

NEA will also partner various food retail businesses, including Cold Storage/Giant, Prime, Sheng Siong, NTUC FairPrice and Subway, to raise greater awareness among consumers on how they can reduce food wastage.

Fertiliser firms must work with food companies to boost Indonesian production

The fertiliser industry must support food companies in working to achieve food security and broaden exports, Indonesia’s president has urged.

fertiliser

The country’s strategy onward is not only achieving food security in three or four years, but also being able to export with support from the fertiliser industry​,” said Joko Widodo during a speech in Bontang.

He said 400,000 tonnes of phosphorus fertiliser was needed to keep pace with agricultural expansion in the country, which he hoped would increase domestic food supply and lead to greater exports overseas.

More co-operation between fertiliser companies and food producers was needed, with state-owned companies leading the way in forging partnerships.

Uncertain outlook for Thai skipjack tuna prices

Skipjack tuna prices in Thailand have fallen 27% since mid-September due to good supply in canneries and low seasonal demand globally. 

tuna

Yet, according to Mintec, the commodities analyst, a review into Thailand’s fishing practices published by the European Union could disrupt exports in 2016. 

Prior to September, prices in Thailand had risen due to a limit in the number of catches from a fishing aggregating device ban, which was lifted at the end of October.

Consequently, demand from canneries has weakened, driven by an expectation of lower prices. Low seasonal demand for canned tuna, which is primarily consumed during the summer months in Europe and the US, also resulted in prices falling. 

In addition, Thailand, the world’s third-largest exporter of seafood, was given six months by the EU in April to tackle its illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, with non compliance potentially resulting in a trade ban on fish exports to the EU. 

While the review has been postponed until the end of December, an EU ban on Thai skipjack tuna will likely result in prices increasing.

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