Saturday, 30 January 2010

PGMA all set to sign Senior Citizens Act of 2010

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is set to sign into law another major social legislation—the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010—that will exempt the country’s estimated 4.6 million senior citizens from paying the 12 percent expanded value added tax (EVAT) and thus enable them to enjoy fully a 20 percent discount on the purchase of essential goods and services.

The original law, Republic Act 7432, gives senior citizens the discount. However, since the elderly are required to pay EVAT like anybody else, the discount has been effectively reduced to only eight percent.

The measure, titled “An Act Granting Additional Benefits and Privileges to Senior Citizens, Further Amending Republic Act No 7432, also known as “An Act to Maximize the Contributions of Senior Citizens to Nation Building, Grant Benefits and Special Privileges, and for Other Purposes,” was passed by both Houses of Congress on Wednesday.

It is this jointly approved measure that President Arroyo intends to sign.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles has described it as “early Valentine's gift to senior citizens.”

The bill exempts senior citizens, or those who are 60 years and above, from paying the 12 percent EVAT on medicines and essential medical supplies, accessories and equipment; fees of attending physicians; medical, dental fees and diagnostic and laboratory fees; fares for buses, jeepneys, taxis, AUVs, shuttle services, public railways, domestic air and sea transport craft.

The tax privilege also applies to services in hotels, restaurants and similar establishments; admission fees in cinemas, theaters and other places of culture, leisure and amusement; and funeral and burial services.

Additionally, the bill provides each senior citizen a monthly stipend of P500, subject to the periodic review of Congress in coordination with the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD).

In case of death of an indigent senior citizen, the amount of P2,000 will also be awarded to his or her nearest kin as benefit assistance.

Under the bill, senior citizens may also enjoy a five percent discount on their water and electric bills on condition that the utilities are in the name of senior citizen, and that the consumption is below 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 30 cubic meters of water a month.

The measure also expands the penalties for those who refuse to grant the benefits. Establishments and their owners, managers and personnel found violating any provision of the law face a penalty of not less than P10,000 but not more than P50,000, or imprisonment of at least one month but not more than six months.

Administration allies in both houses of Congress said the new measure will form part of the legacy President Arroyo is leaving the Filipino people when she steps down in June. It was early in her term, in 2003, when the original law on senior citizens benefits –RA 7432—was passed.

Rep. Reynaldo Uy (Samar), and Rep. Eduardo Zialcita (Parañaque) and Sen. Pia Cayetano, principal sponsors of the bill, hailed the measure as timely and very beneficial to many Filipinos.

Cayetano said approval of the measure would allow the senior citizens to enjoy fully the 20 percent senior citizens discount that was originally envisioned for them under Republic Act 7342.

Cayetano explained that the senior citizen’s discount has been effectively reduced to only eight percent since seniors were also required to pay the 12-percent VAT in their purchase of medicines, good and services. (PND)

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