Health experts back imposition of addt’l tax on junk foods

MANILA — Health experts are fully supportive of the plan of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to impose additional tax on junk foods.

“We support imposing sin taxes on sodas and junk food… A healthy discussion is needed involving stakeholders,” said Dr. Anthony Leachon, Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) Foundation president.

Health experts identified junk foods as one of the major contributors to rising cases of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressures, strokes or cardiovascular conditions.

Junk foods are those foods that have excessive content of salt, fats, sugar and calories.

Typical examples of these are french fries, chips, and softdrinks.

Consumption of these foods are greatly influenced by change in lifestyle due to urbanization and globalization.

Dr. Leachon said the additional tax on junk foods and softdrinks can be patterned after the sin tax imposed on tobacco and alcohol products.

It can be recalled that one of the beneficial effects of sin tax imposed on such products has spelled the increase in budget allocation for health services such as Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) which then enable the indigents to afford medical care.

By virtue of a law, all indigents identified by the National Household Targetting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) Listahanan are automatically covered by PhilHealth.

Also, senior citizens who are considered as indigents and had not been covered by PhilHealth before are also automatically registered as members of PhilHealth by law signed by President Benigno Aquino III during his term of office.

In the past, PhilHealth membership is only for those who can pay for the service’s premiums.

With the collection of sin taxes, the premiums of the indigents (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries and qualified senior citizens are shouldered by the government.

Leachon, who also sits as PhilHealth of Board Director, added that another possible allocation for junk food taxes is for subsidizing the provision of healthy food, like fruits and vegetables, for poor children.

At present, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and partners such as local government units, local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are providing “Supplementary Feeding Program (SFP) in cooperation with the Department of Education (DepEd) to poor school children.

The program is meant to address stunting or malnutrition problem among the poor school children.

Recent evaluation cited that there is a need to enhance further the provision of SFP through more collaborative efforts.

Meanwhile, in a recent forum of PCP, Dr. Lorna Abad, a pediatricians and endocrinologist said that lawmakers of the next administration should begin focusing on crafting and supporting bills that will result to regulation of foods being served in the school to ensure that foods being served in the school are healthy.

Dr. Abad said that one effects of unregulated foods in school are obesity problem which can lead to different compounding problems.

Abad added that obesity can result to diabetes, lung problems, liver disease, gall bladder problems, and even osteoarthritis in some cases.

She further said, that oftentimes, obese children can suffer bullying in school and may have low self-esteem.

With this, she said that it is very important that parents, legislators, concerned public and incoming administration of Duterte will act together to formulate the proper laws that can ensure that schools in the country are working together towards serving of healthy foods to children as part of efforts to safeguard the health of the future generation. Leilani Junio/PNA/