By Macon Araneta i FilAm Star Correspondent
Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III filed a bill seeking to abolish the 42-year-old presidential decree that imposes travel tax to Filipinos traveling abroad.
He said the repeal of the travel tax, especially for travels to countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), should have been in effect as early as November 2002, following the signing of the regional inter-governmental tourism agreement in which the Philippines is one of the signatories.
He pointed out that the said ASEAN Tourism Agreement has already removed travel levies and taxes on nationals of member-States traveling within the region.
“It has been almost 14 years since the Philippines signed the ASEAN Tourism Agreement but as of date, travel taxes are still imposed upon individuals traveling to other ASEAN member-States,” he said.
Pimentel’s Senate Bill No. 1841 seeks to totally remove the imposition of travel tax on those who will depart to any other country around the globe.
The Senator expressed the belief that the Filipinos’ right to travel abroad should not be burdened with the imposition of travel tax.
Originally, travel tax which ranges from PHP 300 to PHP 2,700, was imposed to curtail unnecessary foreign travels and to conserve foreign exchange.
It was first imposed in 1977 by then President Ferdinand Marcos following the issuance of Presidential Decree 1183 in order to provide adequate funds for tourism-related programs and projects to enhance the country’s competitiveness as a major tourist destination.
Pimentel is of the position that the regular traveling Filipinos, who are already paying a huge chunk of their salary to the national government in income tax, should not be made to carry the additional burden in providing funds for tourism facilities and infrastructure.
“They should not be made to pay for the failure of the national government to provide state of the art tourism facilities and infrastructure,” he said.
The senator noted that Section 73 of RA 9593 otherwise known as the Tourism Act of 2009 already provides for alternative funding sources for the programs funded by the travel tax in the event of a phase out of travel tax collection following the enforcement of international agreements.
Pimentel proposed that agencies receiving proceeds from travel tax collections such as the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to instead directly receive the necessary funding from the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“It is also my view that the percentages of travel tax allocated for CHED, even if the law states that priority should be given to tourism-related educational programs and courses, and for NCAA are unnecessary since these are not connected to traveling,” the Senator said.
In the event that the bill is passed into law, Pimentel said flights scheduled on or after the effectivity of the measure and those travel taxes collected prior to the effectivity of the bill shall be refunded immediately.