A person that is at least 60 years of age is called a “senior citizen” in the Philippines. When I reached that age on March 21 this year, it was, at first, hard for me to think that I would join the club of elderly people. Slowly but surely, however, I came to accept the reality of what I am- a new senior citizen. I have realized that the only thing that is permanent in this world is change. Time does not stand still, and I cannot turn back the clock so that I will not grow old. I am not as physically strong as I was before. My body built, physical appearance, color of hair among others things have changed not for the better with the passing of years. However, it’s a consolation that some good things also happen as I aged. With age comes increase in wisdom and the understanding and love of my fellowmen. I love the company of my family especially my four grand children who are now the apple of my eye. I am fortunate that I grow up and live in a society where young people are highly respectful of the elderly.
It is also nice for me to know that the government fulfills its obligation to its senior citizens through its social security programs. One of them is embodied in Republic Act (RA) 9944 which is also known as “Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010”. In this article I will discuss some of the benefits and privileges of a senior citizen under the act.
Value Added Tax (VAT) exemption and 20% discount, if applicable, on the purchase of goods and services which are not limited to the following items:
· On professional fees of attending physicians in private hospitals, consultation in outpatient clinics, services in home health care, and dental services including the price of prescribed medicines and essential medical supplies and accessories.
· On fees of lodging, inns, hotels, restaurants and recreation centers such as theaters and carnivals.
· On actual fares of public utility jeep (PUJ), public utility bus (PUB), Asian Utility vehicles (AUV), taxis, and on actual fares of airplanes and ships as well as fares of trains of railway companies owned and operated by the government.
To emphasize how this privilege helps a senior citizen, let me assume that he buys goods covered under RA 9944 with a selling price that includes VAT. For the sake of simplicity, let me also assume that the price of the goods is PHP 1,000. Since the VAT rate in the Philippines is 12%, I shall first determine the cost of the item before VAT. Dividing the price by 100% plus 12% (1,000/1.12) equals 892.86. Multiplying the quotient by 20% (892.86x.2) equals 178.57. Therefore, the senior citizen has to pay only P714.29 (892.86-178.57) out of the sales price of PHP 1,000. In this illustration, a senior citizen gets a whopping discount of PHP 285.71 or an effective discount rate of 28.57% from his purchase!
Other benefits which are not limited to the following:
· A 5% discount on the payment of water and electric bills to public utility companies provided that the consumption is not more than 30 cubic meters for water and 100 kilowatt hours for electricity and that the meters that are used are registered in the name of a senior citizen in the consuming household.
· A PHP 2,000 death benefit assistance to the heir of a senior citizen.
· A PHP 500 monthly stipend for indigent senior citizens.
· Free dental and medical services, diagnostic and laboratory test such as but not limited to x-rays, computerized tomography scans and blood test that are conducted in government facilities subject to the guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health in coordination with the PhilHealth.
· Educational assistance for senior citizen who wishes to pursue high school, college, and vocational or technical education.
· Mandatory enrollment to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
· An express lane in private and commercial establishment for customers who are senior citizens. In the absence thereof priority shall be given to them.
· Continuation of GSIS, SSS and Pag-ibig benefits.
A senior citizen has to apply for an identification card (ID) at the Office for Senior Citizen Affairs (OSCA) in the city or municipality where he lives so that he can identify himself as such and avail of the benefits under RA 9944. The ID given by the OSCA is valid for use anywhere in the Philippines. Other government-issued IDs such as driver’s license, passport, PRC ID, voters ID on which the birth date is indicated will suffice to identify the holder thereof as a senior citizen.