The mayors of Rota and Tinian are not entirely opposing the proposed sugar tax to be implemented in the CNMI despite of the fact that commodities sold on their islands already have higher prices compared to Saipan.
Business leaders on Saipan have earlier aired their concerns that a 4-cent tax per fluid ounce of sugar-sweetened beverages and syrups can result to a price increase of these products to up to 300 percent.
Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig outright said he supports the bill.
“My position, to me, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Atalig said.
“An example is the liquor here on island. No matter how much you raise the price of that, they’ll buy it because it’s what they want. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Yes it will affect the prices but even if you increase taxes on beer and cigarettes, people still buy them,” he added.
For Atalig, there is just a need to balance the positive and the negative.
“We have to balance this. I understand that they are concerned about health as well, at the same time we’re concerned about high prices,” Atalig said.
However, Atalig added that the law may be repealed if its purpose of promoting healthier lifestyles is not met.
“[Its effect on health] remains to be seen and the law can be repealed if we see that it’s not really working. I guess we need to look at it mid or long term,” Atalig said.
Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas, on the other hand, said he would like to see an analysis or study on what would be the effect of the proposed tax to the islands particularly economy-wise.
“I’d like to know if there has been any analysis how it will affect our economy but I think the intent is very noble. Their attempts to curb diabetes, hypertension, bad health…we really need to give the legislature credit,” San Nicolas said.
“If the intent was to curb diabetes, then I got to respect that but at the same time I’d like to know how this is going to affect everybody’s bottom line,” he added.
Both mayors said they will provide written comments to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres who has yet to decide whether to sign or veto the bill passed by the Legislature last month.