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As vaccines roll out, Congress files import-duty exemption bill

A bill seeking to address the initial non-exemption of vaccine imports from duties, taxes, and has been filed in the House of Representatives.

Muntilupa Representative Rufino B. Biazon filed House Bill (HB) No. 8375, represents a proposed amendment to Section No. 4 of Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as Act (Bayanihan I).

Under Bayanihan I, Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No. 12-2020 exempts imports of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), COVID-19 test kits, medical and laboratory equipment and devices, consumable medical supplies, medicines, and other supplies as may be identified by the Department of Health (DoH), from value-added tax (VAT), excise tax, duties, and fees.

“The proposed law expands Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 07-2020, which implements Section 4(o) of Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, to include vaccines and other necessary medicines needed to contain a declared public health emergency,” Mr. Biazon said in a statement.

Mr. Biazon, a former Customs commissioner, noted that some critical medical products, essential goods, equipment and supplies needed to address public health emergencies may have to be imported and added 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.”

The proposed measure also requires the Bureau of Customs (BoC), in coordination with other agencies, to come up with expedited procedures for the entry of critical medical products to address public health emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.

“Based on the Most Favored Nation (MFN) tariff 2017-2020 approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), vaccines have a duty rate of 1%, while other medicines and medical and surgical supplies are imposed a duty rate ranging from 1% to 10%,” Mr. Biazon said.

RA No. 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, exempts relief consignments, 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.

The government hopes to launch its vaccination drive against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by next month after the expected arrival of the first batch of vaccines. The targeted vaccine order is 148 million doses from seven suppliers, sufficient to immunize 50 to 70 million people this year. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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