Easy sailing for landmark bills in the Senate

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senate20151011DESPITE challenges the Senate faced in the early years of the 16th Congress, the chamber was able to fulfill its primary function of passing new legislation that attends to the needs of the people.

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Since the 16th Congress opened in July 2013, members of the Senate have filed 2,952 measures, with 452 of these acted upon and passed on third and final reading.

The chamber was able to pass landmark bills on health, economy and government reforms and concurred in the ratification of three international treaties with Spain, the United Kingdom and India.

It also passed proposals that seek to provide benefits and assistance to specific members of society like the elderly and persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Just recently, Senate Bill (SB) 2890, which seeks to exempt PWDs from paying the mandatory 12 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services, was approved on third and final reading.

Once enacted into law, the measure will benefit over 1.4 million PWDs who represent 1.57 percent of the country’s population.

Authored by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, the bill also seeks to provide additional income tax exemption amounting to P25,000 to those caring for PWDs who are incapable of supporting themselves regardless of their age.

The passage of the bill into law will exempt PWDs from paying the 12 percent VAT on top of the 20 percent discount they are entitled to on particular goods and services as mandated under Republic Act (RA) 7277 or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

RA 7277 provides a 20 percent discount for PWDs on the sale of goods and services such as medicines, medical and dental services, hospital and laboratory fees, local transport fares, restaurants, hotels, theaters and educational assistance.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, the sponsor of the bill, noted that SB 2890 will provide big relief to PWDs whose number had significantly increased over the years.

On September 21 this year, the Senate approved on third and final reading a bill that will improve the delivery and accessibility of basic, social, technical and legal services to 12 million to 15 million indigenous peoples (IPs) in 48 provinces and 13 cities nationwide.

SB 2209, which was sponsored by Sen. Loren Legarda, seeks to establish resource centers across the country that will enhance the delivery of essential services to indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) and IPs.

The centers, which will be within State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in strategic places in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, will have three main areas of operation, namely Statistical Service Area, Human Development Index Service Area and Domains Management Service Area, to be managed by a coordinator designated by the SUC.

It will serve as a venue to promote participatory programs and projects for IPS, to effectively deliver their responsibilities under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), and to ensure the implementation of their respective Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection plans.

Once enacted, the measure expects to benefit indigenous communities that continue to face long-standing challenges including unavailability of basic services, reported human rights violations, displacement from ancestral domain and destruction of natural environment and cultural values.

Aside from the recently approved bills, the Senate also played a key role in the enactment of laws beneficial to senior citizens and workers in the private and public sector.

These are RA 10645, which amended the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, and RA 10653 that increased the tax exemption cap for 13th month pay and other benefits to P82,000.

RA 10645, which was signed into law last year, makes Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) coverage automatic to all senior citizens.

Senior citizens can enjoy the health benefits provided to PhilHealth members just by presenting their senior citizens identification cards to accredited hospitals.

RA 10653, on the other hand, exempts 13th month pay and other benefits like productivity incentives and Christmas bonuses given to both government and private employees from taxes.

Exemption will cover bonuses and benefits not exceeding P82,000.

At present, the Senate is working on bills that seek to benefit specific members of society like the proposed Security of Tenure Act for Contractual and Casual Employees, Mine Workers Retirement Act, Magna Carta for Seafarers, Retirement Benefits for Barangay (Village) Officials; Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Race Horse Jockey Retirement Act.

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