Yes, the Sin tax reforms matter

By: John Carlo Tria

“Global champion na po tayo, sa inuman.  But that is not something we should be proud of. Maging champion sana tayo sa sports katulad ni Senador Manny Pacquiao o sa darating na South East Asian Games.  Pero wag naman sa inuman,” – Senator Pia Cayetano.

Fellow UP alumnus Pia Cayetano could not have been more frank.

We are a country of drinkers, and we now have 4 million diabetics due to our diet composed mainly of rice (50% of our food expenses) and the sugary drinks we love, and the occasional alcoholic beverage (which is sugar).

What this means is that in our rapidly urbanizing Philippines we have more diabetics than rice farmers. This fact should give us pause. The complications arising from poorly managed diabetes include kidney failure.

Little wonder that dialysis centers have sprouted like mushrooms. Demand for the service has increased. Half of all dialysis patients are treated for diabetic complications.

Because as we cry out for help for our rice farmers, we also ought to re-examine our consumption patterns since diabetes is no longer a rich person’s disease. An increasing number of poorer Filipinos, mainly living in the cities, have fallen prey to this malady.

Luckily the free medicines against diabetes at our health centers are good,  and the free 90-day dialysis sessions per year help,  Even Universal Health care that the sin tax measure aims to fund is a huge step forward for those suffering from this and other diseases.

But more important than treatment is prevention; preventing more Filipinos from contracting this disease matters more than treatment.

The Department of health should do a better job in letting people understand the dangers and risks of unhealthy lifestyles. It is time to vary our diet and inject more fiber and vegetables.

It is time to start a national exercise program, a set of exercises every morning we can all do to improve our health, well being and attitude.

Perhaps an eat vegetables campaign will not only be good for consumer health, but create a stronger demand for vegetables, almost all of which are locally grown.

In the end, the sin tax measure, or SB 1074 represents Package 2 Plus of the Duterte administration’s comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP), has a moral dimension.

In sponsoring the sin tax hike, Senator Pia Cayetano said: “The moral sense of any proposed ‘sin’ tax rate is that it should serve as a deterrent to drinking. It should not be so cheap as to allow minors to afford and have access to these drinks. It should not be so cheap to make it easier for drunk fathers to be wife-beaters, and for traumatized children to lead miserable lives.”

The House of Representatives has approved its counterpart version of this bill last Aug. 20, with an overwhelming 184 votes in favor.

We hope that this starts off a new wave of health consciousness among Filipinos.

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