THE Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) is opposing the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) proposed rules that would require companies to include sugar content of beverages on labels.
“We at the Federation of Philippine Industries — composed of 132 corporation-members and 38 industry associations from across the country — find it unfortunate to learn of a new proposed labelling measure against sugar, which is a consumer good that has weathered, and continues to bear, its fair share of challenges, at the expense of a several concerned industries,” it said in a statement.
Last week, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the DTI has recommended to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the inclusion of information on sugar content per pack and per serving on front-of-pack labels for packaged beverages — both liquid or powdered. The DTI proposed adopting a benchmark that requires special labeling for amounts greater than 25 grams of sugar per 200 milliliter (ml) serving.
FPI accused the government of singling out sugar once again, saying it is an important ingredient in food and beverages.
The industry stakeholders reiterated its earlier suggestion to switch to content-based taxation scheme from the current volumetric approach, which is the nature of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.
“Again, the volumetric tax is essentially a tax on water, rather than sugar. If we really want to address health concerns, a content-based taxation scheme is what the government should consider instead of new regulatory measures,” FPI said.
“Content-based taxation levies higher tax rates on beverages that have higher sugar content versus those that have lower sugar content. It will encourage companies to produce and/or reformulate drinks with less sugar — thus fulfilling the law’s supposed mandate as a health measure,” it added.
FPI also urged the government to also consider exempting non-caloric sweeteners, as it is a burden to senior citizens and those who want to cut their sugar intake.
“It is ironic that although seniors are provided a senior citizen discount, the more senior-friendly non-caloric refreshments are imposed with an excise tax making them too expensive for seniors to enjoy,” the group added.
The TRAIN Law imposes a higher excise tax for high-fructose corn syrup at P12 per liter while sugar — caloric or non-caloric — is set at a lower excise tax at P6 per liter.
“If this planned labelling measure succeeds in moving forward, then the DTI will have failed in its mandate of promoting equitable trade environment and the welfare of industries — something that we as an organization and as concerned industry players wish to avoid. As such, the FPI is eager to work with the government in coming up with fair and equitable solutions to this proposed problematic measure,” FPI said. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato