House panel OKs more discounts in water, power bills for seniors

House panel OKs more discounts in water, power bills for seniors

MANILA – A House of Representatives panel on Monday approved a measure that would raise the discount granted to senior citizens on their monthly electric and water consumption and exempt such bills from value-added tax.

During the online hearing, the House Committee on Ways and Means approved the substitute bill to House Bills No. 1903 and 3040, which would amend Republic Act No. 7432 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

Albay Representative Joey Salceda, chair of the panel, said the exemption would still be subject to a cap on consumption, but for electricity consumption, the limit is also increased in the substitute bill from 100-kilowatt hours to 150. The cap on water is kept at 30 cubic meters.

Salceda said the measure contains a safeguard against abuse.

“The measure explicitly states that the senior has to be living in the household subject to the exemptions and discounts,” he added.

The bill directs the National Commission of Senior Citizens, in consultation with the Energy Regulatory Commission, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and other concerned utility regulatory agencies, as well as national organizations of senior citizens, to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the measure.

In response to the objection of the Department of Finance that the measure might result in leakages, Salceda assured that the leakages can be plugged with the implementation of safeguard measures.

“We have to make sure that the safeguards are implemented so that we can avoid leakages. But the possibility of leakage alone should not be used as an argument against the objectives of the measure,” he said.

Senior Citizens Party-list Rep. Rodolfo Ordanes urged his colleagues to continue giving the country’s 10 million elderly the institutionalized relief in basic social services.

“This is our continuing response on rising to the challenge of coming up with important legislative initiatives that will significantly affect the lives of our marginalized elderly, and bridge their participation and access to the benefits of a sustained and improved quality of life,” he said.

Ordanes said that aside from the bigger discounts, the proposal would remove the value-added tax on electricity and water bills that are registered under the name of senior citizens.

“Kaya’t tiyak na mararamdaman ng ating mga nakatatanda ang ginhawa kapag naisabatas na ito (That’s why the ease (in financial burden) would really be felt by the elderly once these get enacted into law),” he added. (PNA)

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