Imposing higher taxes on sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) is not the solution to the problem of obesity and diabetes, the incidence of which is rising in the Philippines, according to a group of dietitians and nutritionists.

In a position paper, the Philippine Association of Nutrition, Philippine Society of Nutritionists-Dietitians and corporate practitioners said sugar may not even be that significant to the problem, contrary to what lawmakers are saying that taxing sugary beverages will help curb diabetes and obesity, other than raise funds for healthcare services.

"We are impelled to oppose that the proposed taxation on sugar -sweetened beverages due to the fact that it will worsen the already inadequate food and caloric intake of most Filipinos, and the supposed alarming diabetes incidence is not supported by local scientific data," they said in the position paper.

The 8th Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) study does not appear to put the blame on sugar when it comes to the cited problems. The study suggests that under-nutrition among Filipinos is a bigger problem, affecting about 28 million.

About 42 percent of the average Filipino diet consists of rice, and sugar, but at a low 2 percent. As per the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, the country's sugar caloric contribution is well within the allowable recommended intake.

With regards obesity, it is being sedentary, or lack of physical activity is the major risk factor, at 45 percent, as well as poor nutrition.

"Proponents of the SSB tax do not see an in-depth picture of what actually contributes to the potential increase in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in the country," according to the position paper. 

It will only further threaten the 70 percent of the already food insecure Filipino households and people suffering from under-nutrition in the country. 

Sugar, the group says, is still essential to the body under allowable amounts.

The SSB tax has been adopted under Section 25 the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) proposed measure (House Bill 5636). TRAIN aims to lower income taxes, but expand the value added tax.

SSB seeks to impose an excise tax of Php 10 per liter of sugary drinks, powder concentrate to tea drinks will have a price increase of 50 to 100 percent. The proceeds will go to the General Fund, and the Departments of Health and Education. 

Products include soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweetened tea and coffee drinks. MIMS