Rep. Hermilando Mandanas (2nd District, Batangas), Committee Chairman, said he will also write to President Aquino and request him to certify as urgent the proposal to facilitate its enactment amid public uproar on the higher toll fees.
"There's an issue of urgency here. We have to consolidate the bills now. After our (committee) meeting, I'll write the President a letter to ask for a certification. Damang-dama natin ang mga hinaing ng ating mamayan. Kahit siguro walang korupt, marami ang mahirap," he said.
Mandanas said the committee will immediately consolidate the four bills to fast track referral of a single measure to the plenary.
Lawyer Edwin Mendenueto of the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s Legal Department said it is the prerogative of lawmakers to manifest their intention on the VAT exemption or coverage of toll fees.
Rep. Victor Ortega (1st District, La Union), who moved for the approval of the bills, said members of the committee have heard enough from the different sectors about their opposition and concerns on the higher toll fees triggered by the VAT.
Approved were: House Bill 4971 filed by Rep. Arthur Yap (3rd District, Bohol), HB 5171 by Rep. Homer Mercado (Party-list 1-UTAK), HB 5185 by Ortega, and HB 5303 by Rep. Teddy Casiño (Party-list-Bayan Muna). The solons want Republic Act 7716 or the EVAT Law, and RA 8284 or the 1997 National Internal Revenue Code amended to exclude or exempt toll fees from the VAT.
During the hearing, George San Mateo, Secretary-General of PISTON, said the higher toll fees would further burden the people. "Government should not undermine the effect of the higher toll fees on the people."
Elvira Medina, national president of the National Council for Consumer Protection, said the new toll fees would eventually lead to higher transportation fares which will burden workers living in the provinces.
"This will force workers to rent small rooms in Metro Manila and leave behind their families in the provinces," she said.
Tutol-SLEX spokesperson Sammy Malunes said considering that the toll fee is the most expensive among toll fees, exempting the SLEX from the VAT on toll will provide immediate relief in these times of high prices and stagnant wages.