Finance Department eyes tax on digital services

Marje Pelayo   •   May 21, 2020   •   265

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance (DOF) is looking into the possibility of imposing a tax on digital services. 

The proposal which the DOF is now discussing with its attached agency, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), aims at collecting taxes from online revenue-generating services like online selling and streaming.

During the Senate hearing Wednesday (May 20), Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government has no information yet as to how much these digital platforms earn in their transactions. 

Thus, the DOF is looking into ways on how the government will be able to tax online companies like entertainment portal Netflix and commercial website Lazada. 

Just recently, House Committee on Ways and Means Chair Congressman Joey Salceda filed a bill that seeks to tax digital services in the country including what he called ‘network orchestrators’ or the ride-hailing services Angkas and Grab.

Salceda’s bill targets to raise P29.1 billion in revenues.

Revilla proposes tax on video streaming, digital services amid health crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   May 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla said he has filed a bill seeking to impose taxes on digital content and services to boost the country’s national economic recovery plan amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

In a statement on Wednesday, Revilla said he filed Resolution No. 410 calling on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and other appropriate panels to conduct an inquiry into the possibility of collecting taxes from “multinational online streaming services and the digital economy in general.”

“We need to embrace the digital revolution of our time, and to comprehensively review and update our existing tax laws regarding digital economy,” Revilla said.

The senator believes that the revenues raised from digital taxes could “finance the national economic recovery plan, especially the rehabilitation of severely affected industries, and the construction of ‘Schools for the Future’ which are equipped with digital technologies and laboratories.”

He also pointed out that Filipinos are recognized as “voracious online users” who are said to typically spend around 10 hours of their time in the internet, exceeding the global daily average of six hours and 42 minutes.

“Filipinos spend at least 3.3 hours daily watching online content on mobile devices,” he said.

Revilla also said that some of the most technologically-advanced countries such as Norway, Australia, Japan, France, South Korea, United Kingdom, Singapore, and Malaysia have already adopted and passed their respective versions of digital service tax laws.

“Habang patuloy po ang pagpapatupad natin ng quarantine measures tulad ng social distancing at pagbabawal sa mass gathering, at sa pagpasok nga po natin doon sa tinatawag na ‘New Normal,’ tiyak pong mas marami tayong kababayan na gagamit ng technology-based services tulad ng mga online streaming at online market,” he said.

Revilla pointed out that while local online businesses have already been covered by the country’s taxation laws, multinational corporations with more sophisticated technological capabilities, less physical presence yet wider reach may have to be properly taxed given the outdated provisions and leakages in tax measures.

A similar proposal was recently filed in the House of Representatives by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda.

Online selling of prescription drugs not allowed by law – DOH

Marje Pelayo   •   June 10, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Social media have become a popular platform for online selling of almost everything – from shoes, clothes, gadgets, machines, food, even health supplements and prescription medicines.

A concerned netizen posted on social media how easy it was for her to order prescription medicines from an online store and pay the amount at any payment center.

The UNTV News Team checked on the online pharmacy which the netizen mentioned and what other prescription medicines were available for purchase.

The online pharmacy was still open but the prices of medicines were no longer posted.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), selling prescription drugs online is not allowed and may incur penalties under the law.

“Hindi pwede iyang antibiotics sa Lazada (Antibiotics are not allowed on Lazada). That is a violation of our Generics law and Cheaper Medicines Act,” noted Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

“Prescription is a must. It is a requirement. You cannot have medicines, antibiotics delivered through Lazada as if it were an ordinary item.  We will file a case against Lazada if it is doing that,” Duque added.

The Department Secretary said if antibiotics would be made easily available on online shops, cases of anti-microbial resistance might soon get out of hand.

In a World Health Organization (WHO) report, seven thousand individuals die every year across the globe due to anti-microbial resistance or AMR.

AMR happens when a certain drug is no longer effective to fight or destroy microbes or parasite inside the human body due to over dosage or unprescribed intake of antibiotics.

For this reason, the DOH reminds the public to religiously follow the doctor’s prescription of a certain anti-biotics to benefit from it.

In line with this issue, the DOH will conduct its own investigation on reports about prescription drugs being sold online.

EcoWaste Coalition calls out online sellers of mercury-laced skin whiteners

Maris Federez   •   April 12, 2019

EcoWaste Coalition has lashed out on third party sellers of mercury-laced skin lightening cosmetics in popular e-commerce sites.

The environmental watchdog’s chemical safety campaigner, Thony Dizon, said these popular e-commerce platforms must not allow their sites to be used in the unethical and unlawful trade of hazardous cosmetics.

“We find the unabated sale of dangerous skin whitening products in online shopping sites deeply disturbing and unacceptable,” said Dizon, adding that exposing customers to mercury will put their health and the environment at risk.

Dizon appealed to the said e-commerce platforms to monitor the products being sold by third party merchants as the government formulate policies that will regulate the online selling business.

The coalition, specifically called on the top three e-commerce sites, Lazada, Shopee, and eBay to support the Minamata Convention on mercury by taking down third-party ads of mercury-laden cosmetics.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds as a result of human activities or productions. 

The treaty aims at globally phasing out, among others, skin whitening cosmetics such as creams, lotions, and soaps with mercury above one part per million (ppm) by 2020. 

EcoWaste studies showed that that Ailke Perfect Salvation, Angel Placenta, Collagen Plus Vit E, Erna, Goree, and Jiaoli are among those already banned by the FDA for containing mercury above the trace amount limit of 1 ppm.

In accordance with the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, mercury is not allowed as ingredient in cosmetic product formulations.

Mercury in skin-whitening products inhibits the production of melanin pigment leading to a “fairer” skin tone.

However, EcoWaste reiterated that mercury can cause damage to the nervous, immune, and renal systems and also causes skin discoloration, rashes, and scarring, as well as reduce dermal resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. – Maris Federez

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