The Bitter Truth About Sugar Tax!

“Tax on sugar sweetened beverages is both anti-worker and anti-poor. It is also the wrong solution to our health problems,” declared Alfredo Marañon, national president of the Federation and Cooperation of Cola, Beverage and Allied Industries (FCCU), during a picket in front of the Senate this morning. “Worst, it could do more harm than good to our overall economy,” he added.

Rather than impose excise taxes that could leave workers jobless, the FCCU said that it could be more effective for government to invest on long-term solutions such as education campaign and regulating advertising on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Citing a study carried out by the the University of Asia and the Pacific (UAP) in 2016, the FCCU warned that, if passed, the supposed gains of TRAIN could be offset by its negative impact. According to the UAP, the economic impact of the proposed P10 per liter tax on SSB revealed that it will lead to a PHP 63 billion economy-wide loss due to reduced government revenues, job losses and economic contraction.

It should be noted that the DOF expects to collect PHP 47 billion from excise taxes in SSB.

Tax on sugar sweetened beverages is patently anti-poor,” Marañon said. According to a survey conducted by the DOF itself, the implementation of House Bill 5636 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act could push the prices of sugar-sweetened beverages by two percent to as much as 140 percent.

“While the poor will have to pay an extra PHP 3 for every powdered drink sachet they take, the rich can continue to have their tax-free sugar fix in their expensive coffee shops,” he added.

Tax on sugar sweetened beverages is patently anti-worker,” Marañon reiterated. In its study, the UAP projects that at least 133,750 direct and indirect jobs will be affected. This would include sugar workers, coffee farmers and workers in the beverage manufacturing.

In a workers’ dialogue with the DOF held in Davao City yesterday, 2 major beverage companies announced that they may be forced to layoff thousands of workers. One company said it may have to shut down 9 plants. Another company announced it may have to impose a moratorium on their collective bargaining agreement.

The figure cited by the UAP study could be a low estimate. The Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines (BIAP) claims that “over 1.3 million micro-entrepreneurs operating carinderias and sari-sari stores all over the country” will also be affected. It is said that 40% of revenues of carinderias are derived from beverage sales.

“There are better ways to address the country’s health concerns,” Marañon said. Studies abroad shows that investing on massive public education campaign, regulating advertising on sugar-sweetened beverages, and even implementing simple solutions that could “nudge” consumers to reduce consumption – like promoting use of smaller containers – could be far more effective solutions than what President Duterte’s TRAIN wants.

The FCCU is a nation union of workers in the beverage industry. It is affiliated to the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the International Union of Food Workers (IUF).

Duterte’s TRAIN will Collide with Workers’ Livelihood

Workers belonging to the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) today picketed the Senate to express their opposition to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Exclusion or TRAIN.

The labor groups, both members of NAGKAISA Labor Coalition, believe that tax reform is long overdue. For years, workers have been demanding a shift from taxing consumption (a regressive tax system) to one that is based on income (progressive taxation). Unfortunately, Duterte’s TRAIN, as it is currently crafted, is taking the wrong way.

“We welcome lower tax on personal income but reject the regressive impact of excise taxes,” Gerry Rivera, president of PALEA said. “With TRAIN, the government intends to ease our tax burden by forgoing P140 billion in personal income tax, only to collect from us P190 billion through VAT-based expansion and excise taxes!,” Rivera added.

This morning, the Senate is holding a public hearing on TRAIN, specifically on the excise taxes it will impose on petroleum products. The Department of Finance (DOF) proposed to earmark 40% of the PHP 73.7 billion incremental revenues from the oil excise tax (for 2018 alone) to fund targeted transfers through Pantawid Pasada program and the Jeepney Modernization Plan.

The Jeepney Modernization program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will phase out PUJs that are older than 15 years. The program will forcibly replace 205,000 of the 234,000 registered jeepneys that are currently in use in the country. Initially, the DOTR wanted to extend new franchises only to big operators who able to deploy at least 10 jeepneys. “Had we not launched transport strikes against this policy, the DOTr would have displaced at least 410,000 drivers and small operators by now,” Cruz said.

“The tragic thing is, government wants to take away our livelihood from us by phasing out our jeepneys,” Ernie Cruz, national president of the National Confederation of Transportworkers Unions (NCTU), bemoaned. “Now it is saying that it would tax us to death in order to modernize our jeepneys,” Cruz added.

“The problem is, the government has yet to demonstrate that their Jeepney Modernization Plan is accessible to ordinary jeepney drivers and operators,” Cruz complained. “The DOF, through the TRAIN, in its current form, may just succeed where the DOTr failed – deprive us of our livelihood,” Cruz declared.

The labor groups support NAGKAISA’s position to prioritize tax administration reform and de-link personal income tax from regressive tax measures.

“We call on the Senate to pass the personal income tax (PIT), but derail the rest of the TRAIN for now,” Rivera declared.

Nagkaisa dismayed over Duterte’s non-mention of security of tenure in SONA

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition expressed dismay over the SONA of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for failing to address the issue of contractualization. “His silence is a great disappointment for workers as we were expecting him to announce the release of an executive order prohibiting all forms of contracualitzation,” Nagkaisa said.

“For two hours, we were waiting for President Duterte to certify as urgent House Bills 4444 and 556 on Security of Tenure, but no announcement came,” Nagkaisa added.

It could be recalled that during a dialogue with Nagkaisa and other labor groups on Labor Day in Davao City, President Duterte vowed to look into releasing an executive order. “That issuance would have superceded DOLE DO 174 released in late March that not only failed to prohibit all forms of contractualization, but abetted it,” Nagkaisa said. He set a deadline of May 10 for labor groups to submit a draft EO.

“Nagkaisa, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, KMU and other labor groups submitted a common, unified draft two days before the deadline. Two and a half months later, we still haven’t gotten any feedback,” Nagkaisa said.

Nagkaisa also expressed deep concern over President Duterte’s announcement of right-sizing in government.

“How can they talk about right-sizing when there are 595,000 job orders and contracts of service workers performing essential functions in government? They are the overworked and underpaid in government, many of whom are health workers and teachers,” Nagkaisa said.

Nagkaisa is not pleased with the Tax Reform Package Bill in its present form, so it did not welcome President’s Duterte’s endorsement of it.

“Tax Reform Administration should be the first tax measure that Congress approves in order to improve tax collection and prosecute tax evaders. We also support the reduction of Personal Income Tax (PIT), but reject the lowering of Corporate Income Tax (CIT). It is the taxes on profits that should be increased,” Nagkaisa added.

“Besides, adding on to the tax burden of workers at this point in time would be a double whammy as it seems our taxes will be used to fund the war in Mindanao,” Nagkaisa said.

The President defended the extension of Martial Law for much of his SONA. NAGKAISA reiterates its opposition to the extension or expansion of Martial Law based on the following grounds:
1. It is not necessary;
2. It will be very expensive;
3. It is unproductive and is a disincentive to economic progress;
4. It weakens our democratic institutions; and
5. It strengthens the hands of the totalitarians.

“We believe that lawlessness in many forms can be addressed by a highly professional and effective military/police leadership. Ensuring professionalism and quality armed services is where Presidential powers are best exercised,” Nagkaisa said.

Alisin ang lambong ng terorismo. Mamamayan, itulak ang kilusan para sa tunay na kapayapaan.

Takot ang pangunahing nililikha ng terorismo, ng gyera. Kapag takot ang nangibabaw, nakagawiang gustong kapitan ay iyong dagling makakatanggal ng takot. Lakas laban sa lakas. Pwersa laban sa pwersa. Karahasan pantapat sa karahasan ng terorismo. Kung ano ang mas mabilis na makapupuksa ng pinanggagalingan ng takot at kaguluhan, yun ang nakikitang tanging opsyon, tulad ng militarisasyon. Tulad ng pagpataw ng Batas Militar sa Mindanao dahil sa labanan sa pagitan ng pamahalaan ng Pilipinas at grupo ng Maute, itinuturing na Islamic extremists, sa Marawi.

Subali’t kailangang tumingin tayo lagpas sa Batas Militar. Ano pa ang maaaring gawin? Isang mahalagang hakbang ang pag-intindi sa nagaganap sa Marawi; sa pagtuklas ng ugat ng mga kaganapan hindi lang sa Marawi kundi sa likod ng pagkakaroon ng mga grupong tulad ng Maute. Totoong dapat labanan ang terorismo. Subali’t kahit mabuwal ang libong itinuturing na terorista, may iba pang susulpot or marerekrut kapalit nila kung hindi ang ugat ng terorismo ang mapupuksa. Para sa pamahalaan, ang tanging solusyon ay militarisasyon, gyera, batas militar.

Bakit? Dahil mas mahirap para sa pamahalaan na ayusin ang problema ng kahirapan; ang harapin ang kawalan ng trabaho at katiyakan nito, ang makatarungan at mabilis na pamamahagi ng lupa at suportang serbisyo, ang pagsasauli ng coco levy at paggamit nito para sa kapakinabangan ng maliliit na magniniyog, ang moratoryum sa land use conversion, ang sertipikasyon ng Alternative Minerals Management Bill, moratorium sa mga bagong aplikasyon sa pagmimina, pag-aalis ng interes sa mga resettlement ng mga maralita at pagsasaayos ng sistema ng pabahay.

Hindi lamang ang pamahalaan ang may tangan ng opsyon. Tayong mga mamamayan ay may obligasyon sa pagkakaroon ng kapayapaan; may responsibilidad sa kapwa natin Pilipino na dumaranas ng hirap dahil sa kaguluhan sa Marawi, dahil sa mas matinding militarisasyon o abuso sa ilalim ng Batas Militar sa Mindanao. Ang unang pinakamahalagang hakbang ay alamin, unawain, suriin ang mga pwersa at mga kadahilanan sa likod ng matagal nang sigwa sa Mindanao; itulak ang pamahalaan na hindi batas militar ang sagot. Di sagot ang machismo o pagtutulak sa panggagahasa at lahat ng porma ng abuso, sa ngalan ng gyera o pagpatay.

Ang aming sama-samang panawagan:
1. Ihinto ang Batas Militar, huwag pahabain, huwag palawigin.
2. Ihinto ang pambobomba at pagsira sa Marawi at mga karatig-bayan.
3. Isama ang mga lokal na pinuno, pati kababaihan, sa lahat ng usapang pang-kapayapaan.
4. Panagutin ang mga responsable sa paglabag sa karapatang pantao.
5. Tugunan ang mga batayang panawagan sa tiyak na trabaho, makatarungan at mabilis na pamamahagi ng lupa at suportang serbisyo, edukasyon at serbisyong pangkalusugan para sa lahat, kasama ang kalusugang pang-reproduktibo, makatarungang sistemang pabahay, at pagtitiyak ng katuparan ng mga batas para sa karapatan ng kababaihan.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Kilos Maralita (KM)
Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)
Partido Manggagawa (PM)
Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO)
Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy – Ateneo de Manila
World March of Women (WMW)

Martial law extension or expansion will be a very expensive, unproductive experiment

Nagkaisa Labor Coaliton

19 July 2017

 The battle of Marawi has already entered its 9th week.  And it won’t be over until everything gets back to normal.  In fact, it is the normalization and rehabilitation part of this conflict which is a bigger war to win since failure in this aspect, we believe, will only create more conflict in this highly stratified region of the country.

 We anticipate, though, that Marawi will ultimately fall back into the hands of our government forces.  War ultimately ends even without a victor. What it leaves, definitely, are the enormous humanitarian costs that will be very difficult to measure.  The Marawi war has already claimed at least 500 lives and created more than 200,000 bakwits.  Thousands of livelihoods were also lost as the city was razed into the ground by aerial bombings and fierce ground battles. Furthermore, the declaration of martial law has endangered civilians’ free exercise of human rights in the entire island of Mindanao.

 The Supreme Court has already ruled on the legality of the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao but the 60-day duration of Proclamation 216 is set to expire on July 22, 2017.  Hence, the President, Congress and the entire nation now face a bothering question on whether the Martial Law in Mindanao should be extended or be expanded to cover the entire Philippines.  The House leadership, when asked, is even willing to extend and expand Martial Law for the entire term of the President or until 2022.

NAGKAISA labor coalition declares its opposition to the extension or expansion of Martial Law based on the following grounds: 

 1.     It is not necessary;

2.     It will be very expensive;  

3.     It is unproductive and is a disincentive to economic progress;

4.     It weakens our democratic institutions; and

5.     It strengthens the hands of the totalitarians.

 We find no compelling reason to warrant its extension or expansion at this point in time.  We believe that lawlessness in many forms can be addressed by a highly professional and effective military/police leadership. Ensuring professionalism and quality armed services is where Presidential powers are best exercised.  

 Furthermore, extending this kind of war for a much longer time and carried out on a nationwide scale will become a very expensive experiment for a country whose development is highly dependent on loans and regressive taxes. It is therefore unacceptable to see the proposed expansion of VAT and imposition of excise taxes on oil, automobiles and sugar drinks funding not a social program but infrastructure for war. 

 Lastly, it will be very unproductive for the President to spend his remaining years in office for this costly war.  War is both destruction and political distraction.  It neither creates nor equally redistributes social wealth that is now concentrated in the hands of oligarchs.

 The President, in other words, has a better war to wage and win against contractualization, low wages, and high prices of basic goods and services.  If you want peace, Mr. President, build social justice and economic inclusion first. 

Dito ka namin gustong maramdaman.