By Mario Casayuran
Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ Angara Saturday called on the national government to fast-track the release of the implementing guidelines on the value-added tax (VAT) exemption of medicines under Republic Act 10963.
Angara, chairman of the ways and means committee, explained that under the law, “sale of drugs and medicines prescribed for diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension” shall be exempt from VAT beginning January 1, 2019, the start of the fiscal year.
This specific provision was introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto.
According to the Department of Finance (DOF), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is still currently drafting the implementing guidelines.
`The Department of Health has conducted three consultations with stakeholders to ensure the ease of the pharmaceutical industry in implementing the exemption.
“Nananawagan po tayo sa BIR na madaliin na ang pag-release ng implementing guidelines para gawing VAT-free at mas mura ang mga gamot. Filipino families still face the problem of limited access to affordable, safe, and quality essential medicines,’’ Gatchalian said. (I am calling on the BIR to fast-track the release of the implementing rules to make medicines VAT-free and cheaper.)
“Dahil sa mahal na gamot, kadalasang hindi nasusunod ang reseta ng doktor kaya naaantala ang paggaling. Dapat maipatupad na ito sa susunod na taon para mapakinabangan na ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino ang mas abot-kayang mga gamot,” Angara said. (Because the cost of drugs is expensive, patients do not follow doctors’ prescriptions for drugs and thus delay their healing. Citizens should be afforded cheaper medicines in the coming year.)
With the VAT exemption, type 2 diabetes patients who are taking Metformin, which costs P15 per tablet, twice a day, can save around P1,300 in a year.
Angara also authored laws granting senior citizens and persons with disability (PWDs) VAT exemption on the purchase of medicines, on top of their 20-percent discount. ”This is a huge step in making essential medicines more accessible to all Filipinos,” he said
Angara is one of the authors of the Universal Health Care bill which mandates PhilHealth to provide free check-ups and laboratory tests. He is also pushing for the passage of Senate Bill 972 that seeks to establish a “Libreng Gamot Program” mandating all government health facilities to give free medicines to the poor.