MANILA - As a policy, beverage manufacturers do not sell soft drinks to children under the age of 12. So why are sodas being sold in Philippine kindergarten and elementary schools?
According to lawyer Adel Tamano, spokesman of the Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines, sodas are only sold to schoolchildren if school authorities ask for their products.
"Actually, bawal kami magbenta ng soft drinks sa children under 12. Sa mga eskwela globally, ang policy namin ay bawal dahil at that age, di pa pwede mag decide ang bata kung ano ang dapat kainin nila. Nagbebenta lang kami if there is a request from school authorities or the parent-teacher associations," Tamano said in an ABS-CBN Umagang Kay Ganda interview.
He also said beverage manufacturers have a policy against marketing their products to children under 12.
Beverage manufacturers are currently protesting a House bill that seeks to impose an additional 10% tax on carbonated and sweetened drink products, including soft drinks. Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Estrellita Suansing said higher soda prices could lead to lower obesity in the Philippines.
Tamano said the proposal is anti-poor since ordinary Filipinos will be the most affected by the higher soda taxes.
"Sino ba ang tinatax dito? At the end of the day , ang tinatax dito ay ordinaryong Pilipino. Yung mga taxi drivers at jeepney drivers. Ang mga mayayaman, kahit 100% and tax na idagdag mo, makakabili sila ng soft drinks," he said.
He said millions of Filipinos are dependent on the soft drink industry including an estimated 1.2 million sari-sari store owners who sell the products.
Tamano said there is nothing wrong with drinking soft drinks, saying that he also drinks sodas.
"Lahat naman ng pagkain tulad ng soft drinks pwede naman may healty diet as long as may regular exercise," he said, adding that there should be moderation in drinking sodas.
He also pointed that soft drinks and other sweetened drink products are different from luxury or sin goods such as cigarettes or alcohol.
"[Ang sin products] very clear na may negative effect. Ang soft drinks ay pagkain at walang study na very direct ang correlation ng soft drinks and obesity, for example," he said.
ONE SODA HAS HOW MUCH SUGAR?
However, Tamano's claim was swiftly denied by Dr. Anthony Leachon, president of the Philippine College of Physicians. "Hindi ako papanig dun sa [softdrinks] di nakaka-cause ng obesity. In America, alam naman natin na isa yan sa mga cause," he said in the same interview.
He said this is the reason why there has been a move to ban the sale of large-sized sodas in New York.
Leachon said a Harvard study had earlier shown that one bottle of soda contains as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar or about 170 calories. He also pointed out that the obesity rate in the Philippines is getting higher.
The PCP president said their group supports a proposal to ban the sale of sodas in schools, saying that children are forced to buy sodas "because they have no choice."
"If kids are forced into that kind of environment, they may actually absorb that and turn it into a habit," he said.
He also said the proposal to impose higher taxes on sodas needs further study, noting that some European countries have already imposed higher soda taxes.