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Taxing powdered drinks with sugar and soda


By Deedee M. Siytangco

Let's talk about sugar at Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel forum on sugar powdered drinks and soda. From left: Cherry Ramos of Tang, Atty. Roman Romulo, president of association of beverage Vicky Aguinaldo of Stores & Carinderias association, and the author. Standing: Jullie Yap Daza, Domini Torrevillas, Chay Santiago, Alice Reyes, Mila Alora, Beth Tagle, Joy Fong, Frank Evaristo, and Pete Dacuycuy.

Let’s talk about sugar at Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel forum on sugar powdered drinks and soda. From left: Cherry Ramos of Tang, Atty. Roman Romulo, president of association of beverage Vicky Aguinaldo of Stores & Carinderias association, and the author. Standing: Jullie Yap Daza, Domini Torrevillas, Chay Santiago, Alice Reyes, Mila Alora, Beth Tagle, Joy Fong, Frank Evaristo, and Pete Dacuycuy.

Angel Thoughts

“Life is an echo. What you send out comes back, what you sow, you reap. What you see in others, exist in you. Do not judge, so you will not be judged. Radiate and give love… And love comes back to you. “ – Anonymous

Let me share my thoughts on the slaughter “in the name of brotherhood” of Horacio Castillo III and the cowardice of his “brothers” in the Aegis Juris fraternity. Rest in peace, Atio!

I have not met the parents but my son Junie who lives in Vancouver has, and to show his sympathy for the parents Horacio Jr. and Carmina, his Facebook profile picture is that of the murdered young man, for it was murder and not homicide, and I believe that the guilt of one is the guilt of all.

All those who were at that hazing session to inflict pain, insults, candle drippings, cigarette butts, paddle-beatings and goodness knows what else on their solitary neophyte who merely wanted to “belong” to the brotherhood of Aegis Juris are as guilty as hell. Please spare us the highfaluting defense strategies of the six “brods” including John Paul Solano who lied initially and refused to name the other brods who were involved. Solano finally named six only in the executive session at the Senate but reports have it that there were 18 frat men in the hazing house “initiating” poor Atio Castillo.

I remember going with then President Cory Aquino to the wake of Lenny Villa, hazing victim of the Aquila Legis fraternity of the Ateneo Law School years ago. While she prayed and condoled with his parents, I sat at the chapel and the anger was boiling up inside me…why, why, why? A promising decent young man dying in such a gruesome way! What if this boy was my son? I have three sons and all I could do then was pray for Lenny’s parents and mentally hug my sons!

We have an anti-hazing law authored by Joey Lina. Do we need another one? Why do schools still allow fraternities and sororities to exist unsupervised?

* * *

The good news amid the darkness… the musical at Solaire theatre is a must for all, whether you are six or 90 years old! You’ll leave the theater, as we did, humming the old favorites of “The Sound of Music” and it’s a lovely good feeling.

This London West – End Production is a delightful experience and it was wonderful to hear again the music and lyrics of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II. This is a Lunchbox Theatrical Production and David Atkins Enterprises presentation.

The staff stayed at the Manila Diamond Hotel we heard and enjoyed them thoroughly. There were Filipino children in the cast and they were very good! The lead stars that played Capt. Van Trapp, Maria, and Mother Superior were excellent!

* * *

We had an interesting and informative Bulong Pulungan session in Sofitel last Tuesday. Topic was the taxes on sugared drinks. Now, I believe it’s really quite unfair for our learned lawmakers to add to the existing tax on sugared drinks such as soft drinks, energy drinks, and powdered drinks. The senate has, on the other hand, and presumably on the strong lobby of the coffee 3-in-1 powders exempted it so several sectors are crying “foul!”

The additional tax has yet to be levied on soft drinks and powdered drinks with sugar like my favorite Tang fruit powder drinks. As Vicky Aguinaldo, president of the Association of Sari-sari Stores and Carinderias told the Bulungan group, the ones that will be hit hard by the additional tax levy are the tinderas like her whose market are the CDE classes.

They are the ones who buy the sugared powdered drinks which they will add water to (usually one sachet) and stretch the “treat” for the whole family of four, sometime five.

The Senate is actually taxing the water that is added to the powdered drinks! The proposed tax is imposed on the volume not by the actual powder content in the sachet.

The reason they say, is that they care for the health of the Filipinos and need more money for the government’s programs. Ho-hum! How many times have we heard that before?

Vicky and the 6,000 other members of their association are quite distraught about the future of their businesses as their best sellers in their little stores are usually soda (Coke, Pepsi, Tru Orange, Sprite, some energy drinks) and powdered drinks in sachets.

The added tax means they would have to sell them at higher prices, so will their markets still buy? They are relieved that 3-in-1 coffee packs have been exempted, what about the other two categories, they ask?

The carinderia owners pointed out that their class CDE markets buy their best sellers as thirst quenchers at work (for construction workers, street sweepers, laborers, etc) and mothers make juice drinks from powder drinks as treats for their families and baon for their children. A sachet can quench the thirst of five kids, Vicky said. So can a liter of soda.

They are taxing the poor and middle class families and depriving us of our small businesses, lamented Vicky. Why not get the unspent funds from the agencies that have to return them to the national treasury? Yes, why not, Senator Sonny Angara?

Why exempt 3-in-1 coffee only? By the way, Vicky is a super spokesman for the group. I suggested a party list of small store owners with Vicky as their representative. She is a mother of five, has her store in her home and has gone through TESDA and Starpreneur trainings (Coke’s CSR project) and still hungry for more learning.

Atty. Roman Romulo, president of the Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines was also in the Bulong Pulungan. Too bad he didn’t win a senate seat. He is one lawyer we need in the Senate! Anyway, his association is a big industry with many players. He is hopeful that the senators will still study the ramifications of the SSB (Sugar Sweetened Beverage) excise tax proposal and lower the tax rates or, like the 3-in-1 coffee exemption also exempt sweet beverages.

Mondelez Philippines Inc. which handles Tang appreciates the Senate’s diligence and considerable efforts in amending the Sugar Sweetened Beverage (SSB) excise tax proposal, as evidenced by the lower tax rate for SSB proposed in Senate Bill No.1592 stressed Charry Pinga-Ramos, its external affairs manager.

The company which markets several globally iconic snack brands such as Tang powdered beverages and Eden cheese, earnestly requests the Senate to continue its review of the excise tax proposal to ensure a level playing field in the beverage industry.

The snacking company seeks for the powdered beverage (PB) segment a tax consideration similar to the 3-in-1 coffee mixes, in as much as PBs also have the same market penetration in the class D & E markets, as proven by the recent market study from Kantal World Panel, the world’s leader in consumer knowledge and consumers’ behavior analysis. At least 90 percent of Tang’s market buys the PB at it smallest store keeping unit (SKU) of 25g sachet that makes a one liter of drink good for five servings and sold at an affordable R10 per sachet.

Did you know that PBs such as Tang are fortified with vitamins that help address the micronutrient deficiency of Filipinos of all ages, critical especially for the most marginalized markets? It is so, said to Cherry as health issues are also considered in the taxation.

One serving of Tang provides 100 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C requirement for children and is a good source of nutrients such as Vitamin A, B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, iron, and folic acid. Since 2012, Tang also has reduced its sugar content in the Philippines by 27 percent thus each serving is at only 20 calories. This is nice to know.

Mondelez Philippines also maintains that the proposed volumetric tax system, or taxation by liter, does not work particularly for powdered beverage segment because 85 percent to 90 percent of the volume that will be taxed is the zero-calorie water that will be added to the powdered concentrates to make a one-liter drink.

The giant conglomerate reiterates that it is supportive of the government’s vision to build a better future for the Filipinos through a fair and equitable approach to taxation and it welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively with the government, particularly the twin challenges of under-nutrition and over-nutrition. They employ about 400 people here and they took over Kraft Foods.

I particularly like their institutional branding of their snacks, “Creating delicious moments of joy!” So, yes to Tang, Oreo, Cadbury, Toblerone, Eden cheese, Mika chocolate, Nabisco, Trident gum!

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