Ranking solons from the House of Representatives have thumbed down the idea of legislating more discounts at a time when local businesses are facing an uncertain future because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This may not be the proper time for discount legislation," reckoned Anakalusugan Party- List Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts.
"We must strike a balance between the interests of our consumers and business owners, most especially the thousands of MSMEs (micro, small, amd medium enterprises), which may not survive this pandemic if not given the proper intervention," Defensor said.
He noted that MSMEs comprise almost 90 percent of businesses in the country. Although the individual scale of their businesses are small, they have a cumulative effect on the economy in terms of employment.
"If they shut down, more jobs will be lost. Instead (of pursuing additional discounts), now is the proper time to help keep (the businesses) afloat," Defensor said.
For Tarlac 2nd district Rep. Victor Yap, it's better to leave the question of whether or not to offer customer discount to the business owners themselves. "Lowering of prices for not-so-high demand goods like restaurants are inelastic so lowering will not result to higher sales. Let them seek their proper offerings instead of legislating them."
Like Defensor, Yap acknowledged that pursuing so-called discount bills amid the pandemic may be ill-advised. "Discounts at this time may prove in some situations to be more problematic than good," he said.
"However, for some monopolistic businesses, perhaps this may happen if the owners are willing to do a price discount on the low-tier users," noted the Committee on Information and Communications Technology chairman.
At the very least, Yap said business owners must be consulted beforehand regarding such measures.
The new coronavirus has made face-to-face transactions untenable, resulting in massive revenue losses accross several industries such as tourism, transportation, and food and hospitality the world over.
Last November or before the pandemic struck, Ang Probinsyano Party-List Rep. Alfred Delos Santos filed House Bill (HB) No.5497 in a bid to expand the benefits and privileges given to single parents under the existing Solo Parent Act.
Delos Santos recently pressed for the enactment of his bill, which entitles qualified single parents to a 20 percent discount on the purchase of all goods and services, among other new benefits.
Reacting to the measure, restauranteur Eric Teng said the Philippine restaurant industry "will be hard-pressed to absorb any new additional discounts, especially during these challenging times."
He further said the industry is willing to contribute to forming workable solutions on the economic impact of the pandemic, but it must be "built on fruitful dialogue and consultations with all the relevant parties."
Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association President Steven Cua gave a more critical comment on HB No.5497.