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Senator seeks to abolish travel tax

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Senator seeks to abolish travel tax
Passengers are seen lining up for their flight at the NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay City on Thursday (June 23, 2022).
STAR / Kj Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III is seeking to abolish travel tax, saying it unconstitutionally impairs Filipinos’ right to travel abroad.

Through Senate Bill 76, Pimentel also seeks to exempt nationals from member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from such tax.

Pimentel cited Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which recognizes the Filipino’s right to travel.

“This right to travel shall not be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law,” Pimentel stressed.

Travel tax, contained in Republic Act 1478 of 1956, is imposed on all departing and arriving passengers.

“Today, the travel tax is a levy imposed by the Philippine government on individuals who are leaving the country irrespective of the place where the air ticket is issued and the form or place of payment, as provided for by Presidential Decree 1183 as amended,” Pimentel said.

He noted that both the Republic Act and the Presidential Decree were issued before the 1987 Constitution took effect.

“It is the submission of the undersigned author of this measure that the Filipino’s right to travel abroad is unconstitutionally impaired with the imposition of a travel tax,” he said, referring to his proposed bill.

Pimentel pointed out that the travel tax was originally imposed to curtail unnecessary foreign travel and conserve foreign exchange. Subsequently, the travel tax was used to generate much-needed funds for tourism-related programs and projects, especially for the development and enhancement of the country’s competitiveness as a major tourist destination.

“Filipinos are already paying a huge portion of their income to the national government via the income tax, not to mention the substantial amounts taken by indirect taxes like the VAT,” he said.

He added that the national government should not shift the burden of improving tourism facilities and infrastructure to Filipinos exercising their right to travel.

He also noted the 2002 ASEAN Tourism Agreement, which, under Article 2(3) on Facilitation of Intra-ASEAN and International Travel1, provides for the removal of travel levies and travel taxes on nationals of ASEAN Member States traveling to other ASEAN Member States.

“However, our existing travel tax system still covers these individuals. Hence, we need to amend our laws in order to comply with our international commitment,” Pimented said.

TRAVEL TAX

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