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House body merges various bills on tax-free vaccines

THE House Committee on Ways and Means said it voted to consolidate bills making permanent the tax-exempt and duty-free status of imports of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

In a virtual hearing Monday, the committee approved in principle a substitute bill that will grant the exemptions to various types of medicine and vaccine, including those used for the COVID-19. Medical equipment and supplies are also covered by the measure.

Muntinlupa Representative Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon said in the explanatory note of a bill that was consolidated that the 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… Government must willingly give up these revenue sources as it will redound to more lives saved.”

According to Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, the recently approved Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act allows VAT-free and duty-free imports of COVID-19 medicines and vaccines only until 2023. CREATE is currently awaiting the President’s signature.

“(CREATE) is only good for three years. (In this bill), this one is good for forever,” he said during the committee meeting on Monday.

Mr. Salceda said in a statement that the tradeoff for the foregone revenue will be the prospect of a prompt reopening of the economy.

“(W)e are losing some P20 billion in economic output due to delays in vaccination. So, the revenue impact of these bills matters very little to me, in view of their overwhelming economic importance,” he said.

A committee report is expected after the bills are consolidated. The report will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules. — Gillian M. Cortez

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