Zubiri to Fight High Excise Taxes

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri on Friday promised sugar industry stakeholders to fight for the reduction of the P10-a-liter excise tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.

But, I am only one vote in the Senate, Zubiri said as he asked sugar industry leaders to lobby for support from the rest of the members of the Senate.

He pointed out that the need for the support of Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and is sympathetic to the sugar industry.

Zubri said he is ready to get the ire of the country’s financial managers.

“We have to fight for our farmers,” he said.

The senator is pushing for the reduction of the P10-a-liter excise tax to P5, and for the retention of the House of Representatives–approved P20 excise tax per liter for sweetened-beverages using High Fructose Corn Syrup and other imported sweeteners.

Earlier, Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said the Visayan bloc failed to reduce the excise tax on sugar-sweetened drinks from P10 per liter to P5, but they were able to double the amount on imported sweeteners.

Zubiri pointed out that the tax on sugar sweetened drinks, which includes softdrinks and three-in-one coffee “needs to be reduced to prevent a drop in their sales that would gravely affect the Philippine sugar industry, of which Negros Occidental is the largest producer.”

HFCS. The solon said that the Senate inquiry on industry complaints against beverage firms’ large purchases of HFCS that was driving down the prices of domestically-produced sugar led to Coca-Cola’s withdrawing its case that sought to stop the implementation of Sugar Order No. 3 that authorized the Sugar Regulatory Administration to regulate the entry of imported HFCS and to commit to buying more domestic sugar, he said.

He said that the Senate Committee on Agriculture’s unanimous report on the inquiry will state that it supports SO3, the importation of HFCS and other sugar substitutes should be highly regulated, and the DA should protect the country’s farmers.

“HFCS is a health issue, that is why other nations discourage its use through high taxes, and it is not just an issue of protectionism for Filipino farmers.,” Zubiri said.

Coca-Cola has signified its intention to buy 2 million bags of sugar this crop year and 2.3 bags million more next crop year, he added.

Lawyer Emilio Yulo III, spokesperson of the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines said informal talks are ongoing with different firms on an increase in their purchase of domestic sugar.

Earlier, Sugar Regulatory Administrator Anna Rosario Paner said a sugar production overhang of 400,000MT is expected this crop year.

If the companies buy a sufficient volume of Philippine sugar it will reduce the overhang to only the buffer stock needed by the country, and ensure better domestic prices next crop year, Yulo said.*(Eugene Y. Adiong)