Youth solon calls on House leadership to stop reviving zombie text tax bill

THE Congress leadership is again unearthing and reviving a zombie proposal long buried by the undying outrage of Filipino consumers.”

This is the reaction of Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino to the renewed talks on the legislation of a text tax bill in Congress, following International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde’s suggestion of charging additional tax for text messaging.

Speaking in a press conference in Malacañang last Friday, Lagarde noted the “broad base” of text messaging in the Philippines, with over 102 million subscriptions in a country composed of 94 million citizens, which makes it a likely a candidate for “good taxation.”

“The text tax proposal has long been buried in the deep confines of Congress, mainly due to the broad opposition of Filipinos to the said legislation. However, in just a flash, the House leadership quickly considered IMF’s suggestion for the revival of the text tax bill. This just shows how our legislature can easily be swayed by world financial institutions,” Palatino said.

“They are at it again. Despite public outrage, solons may soon be filing new text tax bills. Apparently, hindi pa sila nalo-low batt pagdating sa usaping ito,” Palatino added.

In 2009, two legislators in the Lower House filed similar bills seeking to impose a 5-centavo tax for every text message. The said revenue measure was expected to ease the growing national budget deficit by earning at least P20 billion in additional revenues.
However, the text tax bill was not able to prosper due to broad opposition from various sectors of society, including consumers, overseas Filipino workers, and telecommunications companies.

“We have said this before and we’ll repeat it in case the current administration does not remember: imposing additional taxes on text messaging and mobile phone calls would translate to additional burden for ordinary Filipinos,” Palatino said, himself a convenor of TXTPower, a text messaging consumer group who led the opposition against text tax back in 2009.

“I urge Speaker Belmonte and my fellow legislators to focus on far more important pieces of legislation like the Reproductive Health Bill, the Freedom of Information Bill, and the repeal of the Cybercrime Law, rather than revive this zombie legislation,” Palatino said.

The youth solon reiterated reasons why the text tax is anti-consumer. “First and foremost, it can potentially increase the cost of text messaging. Though the 14th Congress promised a ‘no-pass on’ provision, which means that telcos cannot pass the additional tax to consumers, telcos can easily find ways to recover losses incurred from the text tax by adjusting current rates and promos,” Palatino said.

Palatino explained that the present deregulated telecommunications industry makes it virtually impossible for the government to impose any “no pass-on” provision. “Given the deregulated nature of telcos in the country, imposing text tax could spell the end of unlimited call and text promos, and mark the beginning of a new wave of mobile phone rate increases,” he said.

“Text messaging remains to be an essential tool for communication in the Philippines, once dubbed as the texting capital of the world. We call on House leadership to discontinue any plans for new text tax bills, and bury this zombie of the past in the archives with finality,” the youth solon said.

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