Monday, July 09, 2018

The Federation of Philippine Industries Issues Statement on non-discriminatory labelling on products with Sugar


When President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the TRAIN, ordinary Filipinos were hit the hardest when it comes to buying commodities. The law may be a form to provide hefty tax cuts to majority of tax-paying Filipinos but the reality of price increase in all prime commodities is hard thing to swallow for many. It seems everything was affected by TRAIN but this was to be expected if we want to enjoy its future benefits.

During its first months, many who did not understand the tax package were confused why some products increased by almost 50 percent. It is only lately that we get to learn that what is included in the product label is the culprit to the price increase. An example of this is the SUGAR commodity and it looks like Sugar is being discriminated upon.

Last July 9, 2018, the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI)—composed of one hundred and thirty-two (132) corporation-members and thirty-eight (38) industry associations from across the country has spoken up thru Dr. and made a statement on how they find it unfortunate that there is this 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.



Here is the statement:

We cannot help but observe that the government is singling out sugar yet again with this planned move. Sugar is an important ingredient in food and beverages, with many in the manufacturing (food and beverage) sectors relying on it, and it does not deserve to be put in a bad light by measures such as this.

We renew our suggestion to the government to instead adopt a content-based taxation scheme versus a volumetric approach, which is the current nature of the SSB tax, instead of making new measures about labelling.  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. Content-based taxation levies a 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.

Moreover, the government should also reconsider the tax imposed on non-caloric sweeteners. If the tax on sweetened beverages is indeed a health measure, then the government should remove the taxes on non-calorics as they pose an added burden to seniors and to those watching 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.  

FPI and its member-companies have always been committed to transparency, and this extends to providing clear nutrition information in the packaging of our products for our consumers. As such, we at FPI support labelling on goods that adheres to high standards of transparency and factuality. Rest assured that we comply with all of the government’s existing regulatory requirements on nutrition and content labelling. Companies follow a thorough and rigorous approval process, which involves governmental oversight. All labels are submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval, who also review substantiation for claims, nutrition information, ingredients, and so on. The FPI takes seriously all government regulations—we pride ourselves as a collective of transparent, accountable, and law-abiding companies that strive for the betterment of our industries.

If this planned labelling measure succeeds in moving forward, then the Department of Trade and Industry 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.

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