New 20% discount for seniors on tollways not needed if past Congresses did not delete it
MANILA, Philippines—Abandoned like sheep without a shepherd.
Lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who advocates for the rights of senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs), previously said this to lament how past Congresses neglected the elderly and disabled.
He said this was because legislators deprived senior citizens and PWDs of a 20 percent discount on fees imposed on tollways when they enacted laws which amended the existing ones.
Last Dec. 30, Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor, filed a bill to enhance the transportation privileges of senior citizens in the Philippines–a 20 percent discount on toll fees.
He said they deserve “greater preferential access to road transportation services.” Tollways, including skyways and expressways are controlled-access roads for which a fee is assessed for passage.
House Bill 10630 gives the elderly a 20 percent discount on fees paid through radio frequency identification devices (RFIS), given that the vehicle should be registered in the name of the senior citizen.
Macalintal, however, said the elderly and disabled should have been enjoying the said discount by now had they not been neglected by past Congresses.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said that as of May 2020, there were 12,336,355 senior citizens–individuals aged 60 years old and over. In 2010, the PSA said there were 1.44 million PWDs.
Left without privilege
Macalintal said Republic Act No. 9257, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, which was enacted on Feb. 26, 2004, granted a 20 percent discount to the elderly in public railways, skyways, and bus fares.
Republic Act No. 9442, or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, which was signed on April 30, 2007, likewise granted the same discount and that 20 percent shall apply to “toll fees of skyways and expressways.”
However, Macalintal said that in 2010 and 2016, instead of expanding the land transportation privileges of the elderly and disabled, the laws which amended existing ones removed the word “skyways” from the list.
It was on Feb. 15, 2010 and March 23, 2016 when Republic Act No. 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 and Republic Act. No. 10754 or the Expanded Privileges of PWDs Act were enacted.
Macalintal said when the word “skyways” was deleted from the list of land transportation to which the elderly and PWDs were entitled to a 20 percent discount, the privilege disappeared.
Currently, the laws have these: Land transportation (buses, jeeps, taxis, Asian utility vehicles, shuttle services, public railways), domestic air transport services and sea shipping vessels.
He said with more than 300 representatives and 24 senators, it was shocking that not a single lawmaker noticed or objected to the removal or deletion of the word “skyways” when they passed the new laws.
“Not even a word was heard from our Senior Citizen party-list representative,” he said.
Rise of hope
Macalintal had asked lawmakers to file a bill reinstating the word “skyways” on the list of land transportation covered by the 20 percent discount for the elderly and PWDs to make it clear that the discount applies to fees imposed on tollways.
Responding to his call, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza filed on June 24, 2021 House Bill 9644, saying that in reviewing then-existing laws, “what otherwise would have been granted to our elderly as part of their benefits to augment their expenses for transportation, was denied of them.”
He said the proposed law simply grants a 20 percent discount from toll fees paid through RFID or similar systems. Atienza likewise filed a bill for the disabled.
Macalintal previously said it will not be difficult to apply the 20 percent RFID discount, explaining that for a load of P1,000, the elderly or disabled may pay P800 only, or a P200 discount could be added to his or her RFID card, giving the beneficiary a total load of P1,200 for a P1,000 load purchase.
The RFID was brought about by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in 2020 as it ordered the management of all tollways in the Philippines to adopt an RFID system as part of efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“Our measure seeks to give more substance to the mandate of the 1987 Constitution for the State to prioritize the needs and welfare of the elderly,” Defensor said in his bill.
His bill would require the DOTR’s Toll Regulatory Board to draw up the rules to enforce the discount.
Currently, the elderly already enjoy a 20 percent discount and value-added tax exemption on airline and ship passenger tickets, and on fares of railways and public utility vehicles, including shuttle and ride-hailing services. They are also exempt from paying airport and seaport passenger terminal fees.
Defensor previously filed a separate bill–House Bill 10558–seeking to grant PWDs a 20 percent discount on tollway fees.
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