House bill seeks tax exemption for medical oxygen

THE FREEMAN/ROMEO MARANTAL AND DECEMAY PADILLA

A BILL filed in the House of Representatives hopes to provide a tax exemption for the procurement of emergency medical supplies, including oxygen.

Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the bill’s author, was responding to President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s address on Monday in which he stated his intent to ask Congress to exempt manufacturers of medical-grade oxygen from tax.

House Bill 9958 or the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) Emergency Tax Exemption Act requires the Secretary of Finance and the Secretary of Health to compile a list of supplies needed for the prevention, control, and treatment of COVID-19, which will enjoy exemptions on taxes related to their sale, manufacture, or import.

“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,” Mr. Salceda said in a statement.

Should the bill pass, its effectivity will run until Dec. 30, 2022, which Mr. Salceda said is sufficient time for the Philippines to achieve herd immunity.

He said that the bill will be tackled next week given the urgent nature of the measure, along with it being a presidential request.

Mr. Salceda said in a separate statement that there are several options that the government can resort to while the bill is being deliberated in the House.

“The Department of Finance could invoke Section 109 (BB) (ii) of the National Internal Revenue Code, as we enacted in [the] CREATE (law), which exempts from VAT the sale and importation of medical devices necessary for COVID-19. Oxygen supplies definitely fall under that category. That provision is valid until December 2023,” he said.

He added that the government could also extend the provision in a previous Bayanihan law on exemption from customs duties on medical oxygen in the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act or Bayanihan III which is pending in the Senate. — Russell Louis C. Ku

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