By Mario Casayuran
Three senators have renewed their call for the scrapping of travel tax.
They said Filipinos’ right to travel abroad should not be burdened with a travel tax which is intended to fund the enhancement of the country’s competitiveness as a major tourist destination.
Senators Aquilino ‘’Koko’’ Pimentel III, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan filed their respective bills seeking to totally abolish the collection of travel tax from Filipinos departing from all international airports and seaports in the country.
They stressed that the imposition of travel tax is unreasonable and reduces the travelers’ right to travel.
After filing Senate Bill 91, Pimentel said: “The government should not shift the burden of improving our substantially inadequate tourism facilities and infrastructure to the regular traveling Filipinos who are already paying a huge chunk of their salary to the national government via income tax.’’
Pimentel noted that originally, the travel tax was imposed to curtail unnecessary foreign travels, conserve foreign exchange, and subsequently, was used to generate much-needed funds for the development of tourism-related programs and projects.
He said that traveling individuals should not be made to pay for the failure of the government to provide state-of-the-art tourism facilities and infrastructure.
Pangilinan, in Senate Bill 631, said that the 63-year-old tax on all Filipino citizens, permanent resident aliens, and non-immigrant aliens who have stayed in the country for more than one year, and those who are leaving the country, is just an additional and unnecessary burden.
Pacquiao, in Senate Bill 384, cited the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Tourism Agreement that the Philippines entered with Southeast Asian Nations on Nov. 4, 2002 phasing out the travel levies and travel taxes on traveling nationals of ASEAN member-states.
Fourteen years since the Philippines became signatory to the said agreement, travel taxes are still being collected, he said.
Pacquiao also said the allocation of travel tax to tourism-related educational programs of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has no clear connection to traveling.
“Rather, it imposes an unnecessary burden to travelers and thereby reduces their right to mobility,” he said.
Under RA 9593, the Tourism Act of 2009, 50 percent of the travel tax collection is given to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) while 40 percent of the proceeds goes to CHED’s Higher Education Development Fund, and the remaining 10 percent is given to the NCCA.
Currently, the travel tax ranges from P300 to as much as P2,700 per person.
“The portions of the collection allocated to the CHED and the NCCA, although provided by law to be utilized in tourism-related programs, are extraneous. These must be directly funded from the General Appropriations Act (GAA),” Pangilinan, said.
The three senators proposed to not only abolish travel tax but to totally remove its imposition on travelers after the effectivity of the measure.
Travel taxes collected on or after the scheduled effectivity of the bill shall be refunded immediately, they added.