Yes, I got many letters in relation to commuting on the LRT/MRT and I promise to do another column on it. But I need time to go through the many concrete suggestions and insights that readers sent.
Meanwhile, I will tackle a bunch of e-mails sent in response to my column, “Kasisixty” (11/16/12), mostly pleasant ones on the joys of using a senior-citizen card, or the Card. I thought I should share the “tips” readers sent, together with additional information from research. I also thought of using the Card to come up with some math exercises for Director Marian Roque and other friends at the Institute of Mathematics in UP Diliman, where they teach a general education course called practical math. There’s a lot of math involved in using the Card, and it’s important to teach young people how to handle the calculations for discounts, so they can help elderly relatives and neighbors.
Mainly, the Card is known for the 20-percent discount at restaurants and drugstores, thus the reference to “Club 20,” an unofficial term for Card-holders. What many people don’t know is that the law also provides for an exemption from the value-added tax of 12 percent before the 20-percent discount. That doesn’t mean a total of 32 percent, though. Here’s a concrete example from my last trip to Mercury drugstore to get my mother’s medicines. The total cost of her medicines was P2,479.50, with a deduction of P265.66 representing 12-percent VAT, then a 20-percent sales discount, so the total amount to pay was P1,771.07. The total reduction was 29.6 percent. Round that off and we actually have a Club 30.
People are also unaware of the many other goods and services covered by the Card. Here’s what’s listed in the expanded Senior Citizens Act (Republic Act 9994, downloadable from the Internet): medicines, medical, dental, diagnostic and lab fees (actually free if in a government hospital), fares for buses, jeeps, taxis, AUVs, LRT/MRT, Philippine National Railways, air and sea travel. Also: hotels and lodging establishments, restaurants, theaters, cinema houses, concert halls, circuses, funeral and burial expenses.
You can also get 5 percent off on electricity if your month’s consumption is less than 100 kilowatts, and on water if less than 30 cubic meters. There should also be discounts for training fees for “socioeconomic training” as well as—and I love this—going back to school, whether secondary, tertiary, post-tertiary, vocational or technical. The only requirement is that you pass admission tests.
The sales discount and VAT exemption are significant—if you can get them. The problem is that many businesses, and doctors and dentists, do not issue official receipts, so they can’t exempt you from the VAT.
The senior-citizen benefit can also be challenging in some restaurants, so here are the basic rules. If you’re the only diner, then you get the discount on your total bill. If there are several of you, with mixed seniors and juniors, then we have another exercise for practical math. If there are five diners and two have the Card, then only 40 percent of the total bill can be reduced through the VAT exemption and the sales discount. If you are ordering food to go, you should be able to get the entire amount with a VAT exemption and sales discount, on the assumption that you’re ordering for yourself, or for a senior citizen.
You can only use one Card, and many establishments will honor it even without the holder.
For medicines, you need a purchase booklet and a doctor’s prescription, but in the many years I’ve been buying my parents’ medicines—I’m in the drugstore at least once a week—I’m rarely asked for the booklet. The doctor’s prescription is required because the clerk or pharmacist has to record the physician’s license number and, supposedly, to make sure you really need the medicine. A reader wrote to complain about the prescription requirement, but I can tell you it’s wise to check back with your doctor from time to time. The doctor might actually find you’re getting better, and reduce the dose, or even take you off certain medicines.
Now to groceries. I wrote, erroneously and based on my senior-citizen cousins’ information, that we are entitled to 5 percent off three categories of groceries totaling P1,800. Actually, it’s 5 percent off two categories only. The discountable amount is P650 worth of groceries per week, per category.
One category consists of canned sardines, tuna, evaporated, condensed and powdered filled milk, coffee, bread, white and brown sugar, cooking oil, instant noodles, luncheon meat, meat loaf, corned beef, frozen/refrigerated/preserved and ready-to-cook pork, beef and chicken, and powdered, liquid or bar laundry and detergent soap. If you ask me, it sounds like a rather unhealthy package, with some items mentioned by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines the other day as stuff you shouldn’t be donating to the poor this Christmas.
There’s a catch: Nutritional supplements like Ensure, which sure are expensive, are not considered as medicines subject to the 20-percent discount, or as milk for the 5-percent discount.
As for the healthier category of groceries: Each week you can get another 5 percent off P650 worth of rice (except if sold by the National Food Authority), food-grade corn and corn grits, fresh fish and other marine products, fresh chicken eggs, fresh pork, beef and poultry, fresh vegetables including root crops, fresh fruits and onions and garlic.
Sari-sari stories, talipapa and wet markets are exempted from giving this 5-percent discount.
You need another purchase booklet for groceries and I don’t know why we can’t have one booklet for everything. I used to go crazy helping my mother look for her missing Card, medicine booklet, grocery booklet, or all three. Now that she’s mostly homebound, I have all her stuff in a plastic envelope with her prescriptions. The problem now is that I keep forgetting where I put my own Card!
The discounts on food, groceries and medicines are mandated by law. Other perks depend on your local government, like free movies on certain days (but one reader said there is a fixed number of seats for senior citizens in his unnamed city). I mentioned that Makati does not impose the license plate coding system if the driver or (sole) passenger is a senior citizen. Several readers wrote to say this exemption is important (especially for medical emergencies) and wish it could be enforced by other local governments.
Now to the voluntary perks extended by private establishments. I mentioned last week that the Card doesn’t apply to books, but several readers wrote to say Fully Booked does give a 10-percent discount (5 percent if the books are on sale) if you show your Card.
I also wrote last week that some Makati parking lots give discounts to seniors. Well, someone who I will call Kaeeighty texted to say Quezon City will not be outdone: You get free parking at least in Trinoma, Robinson Galleria and SM North.
Finally, I want to thank the charming and intelligent readers who wrote or texted to say I don’t look my age. One even said “more like 30.” Puera buyag! Friends asked: “What’s your secret?” I will say outright a lot of it is genetic; my parents, aged 88 and 92, look like they’re “kasisixty.” But really, now, there’s more to life than looking young and living long. Give me time to figure it all out and I’ll do a column on joyful aging.