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Thursday, April 25, 2024

SMC: Caring for seniors, PWDs

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Aside from its businesses that contribute to economic development, SMC has programs and projects that directly impact on the different sectors of society

It is inherent in our culture to respect and care for our elderly family members.

This respect and care go beyond family members to include elderly citizens to whom we look up for words of wisdom and guidance.

Caring for the elderly is also enshrined in our Constitution.

Article XV Section 4 states “The family has the duty to care for its elderly members but the State may also do so through just programs of social security.”

Moreover, Article XIII Section 11 provides “The State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost. There shall be priority for the needs of the underprivileged sick, elderly, disabled, women, and children.”

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Benefits and privileges of senior citizens or the elderly are governed by Republic Act 9994, the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, which further amended Republic Act 7432.

These benefits and privileges include:

— discount and exemption from value added tax on the sale of goods and services from establishments for senior citizens’ exclusive use; travel fare discounts; exemption from training fees for socio economic programs;

— free vaccination against the influenza virus and pneumococcal disease for indigent senior citizen patients; free medical and dental services in government facilities; priority or express lanes for senior citizens in all government offices and commercial establishments;

— and five percent discount to the monthly water and electricity bills provided the utility meters are registered in the name of the resident senior citizen and monthly consumption for electricity does not exceed 100 kWh and for water, 30 cubic meters, among others.

For PWDs, the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons as amended by Republic Act 9442 ensures they are not left behind.

Despite the mandated benefits and privileges for senior citizens and PWDs, alleged non-compliance by some establishments has been reported prompting an inquiry by the House of Representatives recently.

The investigation brought together the Committees on Ways and Means, Senior Citizens, and PWDs.

It was conducted to clarify issues in relation to the mandated benefits and privileges of senior citizens, PWDs, and even solo parents particularly on the discounts they are entitled to.

Amid the discussions on how to improve the implementation of the laws and empower the concern sectors, it is heartening to know that hopefully, the elderly and PWDS will soon be getting 20-percent discounts on the use of expressways and skyways operated by San Miguel Corporation namely: Metro Manila and NAIA skyway, South Luzon Expressway, STAR (Southern Tagalong Arterial Road), and TPLEX (Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway).

It was San Miguel Corporation’s infrastructure group head Mr. Rafael Yabut who made the announcement during the hearing.

A former undersecretary of public works, he said granting discounts would be coordinated by SMC with the Toll Regulatory Board and relevant agencies.

According to reports, Yabut agreed to the proposal of Rep. Joey Salceda, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, that instead of deducting 20 percent from the cost of an expressway or skyway radio frequency identification (RFID) card or its top-up load, an equivalent amount would be added to the card price or additional load.

Thus, the 20 percent discount would be given as an add-on.

For elderly owners of vehicles to avail themselves of the discount, the vehicle with the RFID should be registered under the name of the senior citizen or PWD.

For those of us who are not legislators or lawmakers, we do not know if an enabling law is needed for this.

Or, amendments will be introduced to the existing Expanded Seniors Citizens Act and the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

Whichever, I hope it will not take too long for our legislature to pass one.

San Miguel Corporation did it again.

It has proven it is a trailblazer for many ideas that are benefitting the country and its people.

Aside from its businesses that contribute to economic development, it has programs and projects that directly impact on the different sectors of society.

Its advocacies extend from education for the youth, livelihood and skills training for the unemployed, housing, health and medical aid, environment protection, among others.

Now, it is working to help the elderly and PWDs.

SMC, under its President Ramon S. Ang has showed other organizations that beyond profit, is the need to help the government care for its citizens.

It is my fervent hope others will follow the lead.

(The author is president and executive director of the Million Trees Foundation Inc., a non-profit group advocating tree planting and watershed protection. He is also a book writer and publisher of biographical and coffee table books.)

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