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Lawmakers vow to hasten P500 discount for seniors

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Updated on February 25 // 11: 33 PM

House Speaker Martin Romualdez moved to fast-track the P500 discount for senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) in grocery stores and supermarkets.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairperson of the House committee on ways and means, filed a proposal to increase the discount to P125 per week or P500 per month.

Currently, the discount for seniors and PWDs is only P65 per week or P260 per month on their purchased grocery items.

According to Romualdez, “that can be done even next month since just one memorandum circular from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is all that is needed to be issued to mall grocery stores and supermarkets.”

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DTI Assistant Secretary Amanda Nograles said they are preparing an inter-agency committee circular to immediately implement the House leader’s wish of a P500 discount per month on grocery items for senior citizens and PWDs.

The inter-agency committee is composed of DTI, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Energy.

 “Aside from the P125 discount, we are asking Rep. Salceda to find other ways (on) how we can help the senior citizens and PWDs who most of them are just receiving meager pensions,” Romualdez said.

“It may be high time to revisit the law, which was passed in 2010. Some of its provisions are already quite obsolete, and are no longer responsive to the changing times,” he added.

A joint committee of the House of Representatives has directed the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture to increase the senior citizen’s discount on basic goods from P65 per week to P125 per week, or a total of P500 per month.

This as Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda led the joint committee hearings of the House committees on ways and means, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities to ensure that the discounts that should be enjoyed by senior citizens are being followed and implemented.

“Using food inflation rates, we determined that by now the total value of the discount should have been adjusted to around P126.31 per week. So, adjustment to P125 is more or less where we should be by now,” Salceda, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said.

At the same time, Salceda said the joint committee will draft a bill that aims “to enhance discounts for special sectors.”

The joint committee made the determination by choosing between either consumer price index levels or food inflation from 2010 to 2024.

“The food inflation rate makes better sense since these are basic goods,” Salceda said. “At least, this is an empirically made policy decision rather than setting an arbitrary adjustment.”

Under the current system, promulgated through DTI-DA Administrative Order No. 10-02, as part of Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, senior citizens are entitled to a special discount of five percent of the regular retail price, without exemption from value-added tax, of basic necessities.

Currently, a special discount of 5 percent on groceries bought by senior citizens exists, but it has a cap of up to P1,300 per week — which means that if purchases exceed that amount, the discount will stay at 5 percent of P1,300, which is P65.

“The DTI and the DA are so directed to adjust the rates prescribed in the administrative order,” Salceda said, following a motion from fellow committee chairs Rep. Alfelito Bascug of Agusan del Sur and Rep. Rodolfo Ordanes of Senior Citizens party-list group.

Bascug and Ordanes are the chairs of the House special committees on persons with disabilities, and on senior citizens affairs, respectively.

“This is just an administrative order, so it can be adjusted with immediate effect,” Salceda added.

Salceda also estimated that “the cost to society of these discounts is at least P31.096 billion every year, a burden shared equally among all others.”

“This is the overarching doctrine of these discounts – everyone else has a responsibility to take care of elders, simply because everyone else will become elders at some point.”

“The policy decision we have made as a society is that we will all distribute the burden amongst ourselves, as sellers will likely pass these costs on to other consumers.”

“It has an inflationary effect of around 0.04 percent, which doesn’t look like much, but the nominal value, if taken on its own, is substantial.”

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