MANILA – A bill seeking to exempt vaccines and other essential medical supplies from import duties, taxes, and other fees during public health emergencies has been filed at the House of Representatives.
In a statement on Friday, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon filed House Bill 8375, or the proposed Public Health Emergency Importation Tax Exemption Act.
Biazon said some critical medical products, essential goods, equipment, and supplies needed to address public health emergencies may have to be imported into the country, stressing that “any impediment, therefore, that may affect their availability and accessibility to our people, such as import duties, taxes, and other fees, must be waived.”
“Government must willingly give up these revenue sources as it will redound to more lives saved,” he stressed.
Under the bill, the exemption will only be valid for the duration of the public health emergency.
Aside from critical medicines and vaccines, included in the list of goods and supplies to be exempted are personal protective equipment (PPE); surgical equipment and supplies; laboratory chemicals and equipment; consumables such as alcohol, sanitizers, tissue, thermometers, and cleaning materials; testing kits; and other supplies or equipment as may be determined by the Department of Health (DOH) and other relevant government agencies.
The Bureau of Customs (BOC), in coordination with other concerned agencies, shall be mandated to formulate liberalized procedures to expedite the entry of critical medical products, essential goods, equipment, and supplies to address public health emergencies in the country.
“The country must always be prepared to deal with situations that threaten the health and endanger the lives of our people. Government must, at all times, be ready to respond to public health emergencies effectively and efficiently to cushion their effects and prevent them from becoming disasters,” said Biazon, a former BOC chief.
According to the Most Favored Nation (MFN) tariff schedule for 2017-2020 approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), vaccines have a duty rate of 1 percent, while other medicines and medical and surgical supplies are imposed a duty rate ranging from 1 percent to 10 percent.
RA 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), currently exempts relief consignment, or goods imported during a state of calamity and intended for a specific calamity area for the use of the calamity victims, from duties and taxes.
These include food, medicine, and equipment, and materials for shelter that are donated or leased to government institutions and accredited private entities for free distribution to or use of victims of calamities. (PNA)