The House Committee on Ways and Means recently approved four bills that seek to exempt toll fees from the coverage of the expanded value-added tax (VAT).
"There's an issue of urgency here. We have to consolidate the bills now. After our (committee) meeting, I'll write the President a letter to ask for a certification. Damang-dama natin ang mga hinaing ng ating mamayan. Kahit siguro walang korupt, marami ang mahirap," said Rep. Hermilando Mandanas (2nd District, Batangas), chairman of the House committee.
Mandanas added that the committee will immediately consolidate the four bills to fast track the referral of a single measure to the plenary.
The approved bills were House Bill (HB) 4971 filed by Rep. Arthur Yap (3rd District, Bohol), HB 5171 by Rep. Homer Mercado (Party-list 1-UTAK), HB 5185 by Rep. Victor Ortega (1st District, La Union), and HB 5303 by Rep. Teddy Casiño (Party-list-Bayan Muna). All four bills seek to amend Republic Act (RA) 7716 or the EVAT Law, and RA 8284 or the 1997 National Internal Revenue Code by excluding or exempting toll fees from the VAT.
According to Ortega, his colleagues have heard enough from the different sectors about their opposition and concerns on the higher toll fees triggered by the VAT.
"The Government should not undermine the effect of the higher toll fees on the people," said Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) secretary-general George San Mateo during the committee hearing. San Mateo added that the higher toll fees would only further burden the people.
Elvira Medina, national president of the National Council for Consumer Protection, added that the new toll fees would eventually lead to higher transportation fares which will burden workers who live in the provinces, forcing them to rent small rooms in Metro Manila "and leave behind their families in the provinces."