MANILA -- The World Health Organization (WHO) has lauded the Philippines’ new excise tax imposed on sugar-sweetened beverages, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

“WHO had positive remarks for our sugar-sweetened beverages tax provisions,” Roque said during Palace briefing on Monday.

Roque said WHO has dubbed the passage of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act particularly a provision on sugar-sweetened beverages as a great step forward in protecting the health of Filipinos.

“With this development, we hope to contribute to our national health agenda and hopefully prevent risks associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and tooth decay,” Roque said.

TRAIN is the first package of the comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP) envisioned by the Duterte administration to correct a number of deficiencies in the country’s tax system to make it simpler, fairer, and more efficient.

Under TRAIN, additional PHP6 excise tax per liter of drinks using sugar and artificial sweeteners will be imposed while PHP12 per liter for drinks using high fructose corn syrup.

All kinds of milk, 3-in-1 coffee, natural fruit and vegetable juices, and medical indicated beverages are exempted from TRAIN.

“The people should minimize consumption of soft drinks because this is not good for the health,” Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in the same press briefing.

TRAIN will also increase the excise tax on tobacco, fuel, coal, and automobile.

According to the DOF, the government will raise over PHP786 billion which will be used to fund President Duterte’s social and infrastructure programs.

Dominguez said TRAIN will improve people’s lives since it will also exempt workers who are receiving PHP21,000 per month from paying taxes while those with higher salaries will get personal income tax reduction.

“Let me emphasize that this reform is an important milestone in our economic history,” he said.

He said the main purpose of tax reform is to reduce poverty and inequality particularly the tax system. (PNA)