Tax-free importation of critical medical supplies, equipment gets unanimous Lower House approval

Published August 31, 2021, 7:52 PM

by Ben Rosario

With 202 affirmative votes and zero negative votes, the House of Representatives on Tuesday, August 31 approved on final reading a bill exempting from all taxes the importation of critical medical supplies, essential goods, inputs, raw materials and equipment urgently needed during times of public health emergencies.

House Bill 8895 consolidated six legislative proposals filed by Deputy Speakers Conrado Estrella (ABONO Partylist) and Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and Reps. Sergio Dagooc (APEC Partylist); Adriano Ebcas (AKO Padayon Partylist) Rozzano Ruffy B. Biazon (Lone District, Muntinlupa City); and Manuel Luis Lopez (1st District, Manila).

Estrella said HB 8895 seeks to ensure and protect the health and safety of Filipinos by adopting mechanisms that would allow the state to immediately address threats to public health.

Estrella filed HB 8376 that seeks to grant tax-free importation of COVID-19 testing needs and vaccines to better arm the public against the deadly disease.

“The strain in public resources of the cost of procuring sufficient amounts of testing paraphernalia and ancillary supplies and vaccines is tremendous. This limits the capability of government to procure the desired sufficient number of paraphernalia and vaccines and to adequately meet the needs of citizens especially the poor,” explained the partylist lawmaker.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, lauded the House leaderhsip for the passage of the measure.
“The unanimity of the House in approving this measure shows our intent to help our medical frontliners with good policy,” Salceda said.

“The bill comes at a good time when we are in need of these critical supplies. This end-to-end exemption will help bolster our stock of critical supplies, such as medical oxygen,” he pointed out.

The bill exempts the manufacture, importation, sale, and donation of critical medical supplies and essential goods during public health emergencies. The bill also mandates the Secretary of Health and Secretary of Finance to draw up the list of goods subject to exemption. The exemptions will require the declaration of a public health emergency by the President after December 2023, but will be in effect until then.

Critical medical products refer to vaccines and other necessary medicines to contain public health emergencies.

Essential goods refer to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns, masks, goggles, and face shields; surgical equipment and supplies; laboratory equipment and its reagents; medical equipment and devices; support and maintenance for laboratory and medical equipment, surgical equipment and supplies; medical supplies, tools, and consumables such as alcohols, sanitizers, tissue papers, thermometers, hand soaps, detergents, sodium hypochlorite, cleaning materials, povidone iodine; testing kits, and such other supplies or equipment as may be determined by the Department of Health (DOH) and other relevant government agencies.