Senior citizens get more benefits

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Friday, July 9, 2010

SENIOR citizens will start to reap more privileges starting this week as the implementation of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act officially took effect Wednesday.

With the signing of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of this new law last June 18, select government agencies including the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue will grant more benefits to senior citizens.

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"We are glad and grateful to our lawmakers that the benefits deserved by our senior citizens have expanded with the signing of this IRR," DSWD Regional Director Porfiria Bernardez said.

Bernardez added: "We must, however, be vigilant that this privilege will not be abused especially with the use of senior citizen's ID in securing for discounts and other exemptions."

The benefits and privileges include the grant of 20 percent discount and exemption from value-added tax on the purchase of goods and services.

Moreover, a five percent discount on electric and water consumption may also be availed by those aged 60 and above provided the individual meters for the utilities are registered in the name of the senior citizen and monthly consumption should not exceed 100 kilowatt hours of electricity and 30 cubic meters of water, which is the flatline consumed by persons for utilities.

In addition, the Department of Health will also give poor senior citizens free vaccination against the influenza virus and pneumococcal disease, which so far are still in the drawing board until funds are allocated in the next budget.

Aside from the discounts and other privileges, a P2,000 death benefit assistance and monthly social pension of P500 for indigent older persons will also be given through the DSWD.

Last June 18, two weeks before President Benigno Aquino III assumed office, senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health, Education, Labor and Employment, Justice, Interior and Local Government, Trade and Industry, and Transportation and Communication, the National Economic and Development Authority, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, as well as five non-government organizations signed the IRR.

Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizen's Act was introduced by Parañaque Representative Eduardo Zialcita and Senator Pilar Juliana Cayetano authored the law.

More guidelines

However, Bureau of Investigation (BIR) in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) Director Norberto Vitug said tax exemptions may still take some time as the new VAT-exemption of discounted senior citizens purchases will require the issuance of new revenue regulations and guidelines by the BIR for approval by the Department of Finance.

As for the medical or health-related privileges, whether discounted or for free and the discounts on purchase of goods and services from leisure and recreation centers shall be subject to the supplemental guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, respectively by Aug. 6.

Also, discounts on electric and water utilities will be covered by supplemental guidelines issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission, the Local Water Utilities Administration including the Baguio Water District, respectively, six months after effectivity of the new law or by January next year.

DSWD-CAR Director Porfiria Bernardez said the monthly social pension of P500 for indigent senior citizens will be subject to DSWD guidelines, which will include the development of criteria for identification and selection of beneficiaries, the mechanisms for establishing a database, the system for delivery or release of the benefits, as well as monitoring and evaluation to facilitate the implementation of this additional government assistance.

This monetary assistance will also be dependent on the budget of the agency as released and approved by the Department of Budget and Management.

Social pension, moreover, as stated in the law, is also subject for review by Congress after two years with consultations from the DSWD.

Senior citizens are also entitled to discounts on land, sea and air fare; admission to movie theatres and the like.

Cayetano, however, still urged the new Cabinet to carry out the full implementation of RA 9994.

She called on the DSWD, BIR, DOH and Department of Budget and Management to ensure senior citizens enjoy all the law's benefits.

"I hope the concerned agencies under their new leadership would not have to wait out for the deadline before carrying out their respective tasks under the IRR," Cayetano said.

"Our senior citizens have waited long enough, and should not be made to wait unnecessarily much longer," she added.

Any person who refuses to honor the senior citizens' identification card issued by the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs will face the appropriate penalty.

For the first violation, a fine of not less than P50,000 but not exceeding P100,000 and imprisonment of not less than two years but not more than six years will be imposed.

For any subsequent violation, a fine of not less than P100,000 but not exceeding P200,000 and imprisonment for not less than two years but not more than six years.

If the offender is an alien or a foreigner, they will be deported immediately after servicing their sentence without further deportation proceedings.

Upon filing of the complaint, the proper authorities may also cause the cancellation of the business permit granted to any person or establishment. (JM Agreda/With Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

Senior citizens get more benefits

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