The House of Representatives has responded positively to President Rodrigo Duterte’s appeal for the passage of a bill that would help ensure sufficient medical oxygen supply by exempting its importation from taxes.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda (2nd district, Albay) filed on Wednesday, August 11 House Bill No. 9958 or the COVID-19 Supplies Tax Exemption Act as an emergency measure that would respond to Duterte’s request.
“This is an emergency, as well as a presidential request. So, we’ll take it up next week.” Salceda said in filing the bill.
HB 9958 provides that the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of Health shall jointly and periodically issue during the effectivity of the act a list of critical or needed supplies for the prevention, control, and treatment of COVID-19, including healthcare equipment and supplies, whose manufacture, sale, or importation shall be exempt from import duties, taxes, and other fees.
Included among the said items is imported medical oxygen.
Under the bill the finance secretary is tasked to issue the rules and regulations for the implementation of the section.
“The provision intends to be general, so that we don’t have to legislate for each and every specific supply. The Secretary of Finance can simply invoke the rule as needed,” Salceda said.
Salceda’s bill also empowers the Finance secretary upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Health and Secretary of Trade and Industry, to suspend thresholds on required export sales for availment of privileges under Title XIII of the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended, for goods critically needed for the prevention, control, and treatment of COVID-19, or for specific registered business enterprises manufacturing such goods.
“This will allow PEZA-registered enterprises to sell their goods to the domestic market when we need it,” Salceda said.
“Anyway, the Secretary of Finance may or may not choose to invoke the power. As long as it’s there for when we need it,” Salceda added.
The effectivity of the proposed bill is until December 2022, which Salceda says “is probably long enough to achieve herd immunity.” “The bill will also allow us to procure syringes and other COVID-19 needs when we need it, tax free,” Salceda said.
Earlier, Duterte announced in his address to the nation his intention to ask Congress to give tax relief to importation of “very vital components” in the fight against the deadly COVID-19.
Salceda said the ways and means will treat the legislative proposal as a priority measure.