Help, we’re ‘daing’: Health department eyes taxing crispy dried fish and other salty food

A woman drying salted fish in Batanes, 2018. <I>Photo: Jimmy Domingo/ABS-CBN News</I>
A woman drying salted fish in Batanes, 2018. Photo: Jimmy Domingo/ABS-CBN News

If you’re Filipino, you’ve probably heard “daing” (pronounced similarly to “dying”) used as a pun for the terminally ill once or twice. Turns out, that there’s more to the pun than meets the eye.

The beloved crispy Filipino grub — made by butterflying a fish, sprinkling it liberally with salt, and drying it in the open sun — is now apparently considered such a serious health hazard that the health department yesterday said that it’s looking into taxing it, along with other salty food products.

Read: Filipino Food 101: A cheat sheet to understanding the cuisine of the Philippines

Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a press briefing yesterday that “salt is directly correlated to hypertension, heart disease, kidney diseases,” which is why the department is studying how they can enforce guidelines on its intake. The answer, he said, could be taxing it.

“In many countries, if you tax products that are unhealthy, the intake decreases and the companies reformulate their products,” Domingo said, adding that taxed food products “will be more expensive, so people will tend to buy the healthier option because it’s cheaper.”

Dr. Anthony Leachon said in the same briefing that dialysis is the number two expenditure of the country’s state-run insurance agency. He said dialysis is often caused by diabetes and hypertension, and the latter can be caused or exacerbated by eating salty food.

Read: 5 ways to get your salted egg fix in Metro Manila

Leachon points out that the recommended daily intake for salt is two grams per day, but Filipinos often consume up to 15 grams per day.

If the proposal becomes a law, Domingo says the lowly backyard daing industry will be slapped with a Sin Tax, along with other processed foods with high salt content like instant noodles and canned goods.

Labor group KMU (“Kilusang Mayo Uno” or “May One Movement”), meanwhile, slammed the DOH’s proposal to tax salty foods, saying the taxation is another excuse to line politicians’ pockets, and that taxing daing, a cheap foodstuff, is anti-poor.

“What these taxes do is further burden the already impoverished people,” KMU Chairman Elmer Bong Labog said in a statement. “Ordinary Filipinos already lack enough income with the measly daily wages and monthly salaries of employees. They lack stable employment and livelihood.  They are deprived of the most basic health services.”

Labog said the health department should instead address malnutrition and poor sanitation, which are “basic health problems,” he added. “These new taxes just ‘kill’ them.”



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