VAT Exemptions: choices, choices, choices

What is this about taking back from senior citizens and people with disabilities VAT exemption they currently enjoy in order to “compensate the lowering of corporate and income taxes”?

The matter highlights once again the sore point that is this country’s senior citizens and other vulnerable sectors. Except for the one percent who owns much of this country’s wealth and are themselves senior citizens hence also enjoy the current exemption, alongside those who have saved up funds, the sector is one of the poorest.

Seniors are summarily limited in experiencing the benefits of being alive in the twenty-first century. The mass of senior citizens rely, if there is, on pension from government (bracketed according to their salaries from worlds ago such that it’s not surprising that they receive, what, around two thousand pesos monthly- what would that buy?), or intermittent allowances from family or relatives. They rely on family’s kindness for shelter over their bodies, medical, nursing and dental needs, leisure, etc. War veterans are now too frail to follow up on the amounts promised them by government.

Old age in this country presents a very insecure and scary place to be. Tragic, too, because the best spots around the country are developed not for Filipino retirees but for foreign retirees. I’d always thought that when I’m a very old woman, I’d not want to rely on kindness (because kindness is variable). That would be the ultimate loss of dignity. I’d check into a house for the elderly until it’s time to go. This means I need to have saved on that yesterday and systems and institutions have been put up and running well.

But therein lies the problem. Social protection and welfare services for this age group are almost nonexistent. Yet senior citizens are the most active members of our communities- as volunteers, mentors, caregivers, etc. They are eager to remain relevant. In the first world nations, state policies for seniors include continuing training and education, employment (they still can! but on flexi work arrangements), legal assistance, and the like, even regular fun events. Basically, supporting old people in order that they continue living a life of dignity and fulfillment. Here, it’s kanya kanya (mind your own business), bahala ka din sa buhay mo (it’s your goddamn life I don’t care), mamatay ka na lang kaya (why don’t you drop dead already?).

Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan is the counterargument to this prevailing attitude. Therein is the reason this country’s going from crisis to crisis, always beginning to sow but seemingly unable to reap the fruits.

We don’t honor our elders. We are a Catholic majority but live most unCatholic like. We’ve turned back on ourselves and each other. Kapamilya and kapuso are reduced to mean superficial affiliations with rival TV networks instead of their positive humanistic Filipino values of looking out for family and loved ones, especially now in this debate, the more frail members of the nation.

We are not a people who live gratitude. We actually would dip into public coffers earmarked for welfare and use it for personal gain. We actually would sacrifice the lambs for corporate interests. We are third world not only with management of our economy but also in our ways toward the vulnerable in society. We dress up in the costliest of couture but we’re actually cave age-like where it matters.

The irony of it all is that the Philippine Tax Code (section 109) exempts from VAT the following:

(S) sale, importation or lease of passenger or cargo vessels and aircraft including engine, equipment and spare parts thereof for domestic and international transport operation.

But nobody in Congress or the DOF has offered to reverse that one instead to compensate the lowering of corporate taxes (although no sane economist would advise to actually put in law a blanket lowering of corporate tax at a time of robust global markets and technological innovations, it’s suicide if not downright foolish). No. It had to be the senior citizens.

war veteran vs war machine


APEC 2015 Voices of the Future: Building a Sustainable Future: Inclusive Growth, Resilience, Empowerment

Another APEC event I’m following is Voices of the Future, youth delegates from APEC countries.  In the Special Session Dialogue held on November 13, I was struck by the young delegate from China.  Indeed, China’s young people have come a long way from the time of their parents and grandparents.