Bring back 20-percent skyway toll fee discount for elderly and PWDs
Our senior citizens and persons with disability (PWDs) should have been enjoying by now their 20-percent discount from the controversial radio frequency identification devices (RFID) and toll fees, had they not been abandoned by our lawmakers in the enactment of amendatory laws that removed or deleted such privilege. By merely deleting the word “skyways” from the original laws, such privilege was gone.
Let me explain.
Republic Act No. 9257, which was enacted on Feb. 26, 2004, and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR), granted a 20-percent discount to seniors “in public railways, skyways and bus fares.”
RA 9442 which was enacted on April 30, 2007, and its IRR granted “at least 20% discount in public railways, skyways and bus fare for PWDs” and that such 20-percent discount shall apply to “toll fees of skyways and expressways.”
Both privileges could be availed of only if the vehicle is registered in the name of the senior citizen or PWD.
However, on Feb. 15, 2010, Congress enacted RA 9994, the Expanded SC Act of 2010; and on March 23, 2016, RA 10754, the Expanded PWD Privileges Act, was passed where, instead of expanding the land transportation privileges of seniors and PWDs, both laws removed the word “skyways” from the list of land transportation that entitled them to a 20-percent discount.
With more than 300 representatives and 24 senators, it is very surprising that not a single representative or senator noticed and/or objected to the removal or deletion of the word “skyways” when they passed RA 9994 for seniors and RA 10754 for PWDs. Not even a word was heard from our Senior Citizens party-list representative.
Our seniors and PWDs were practically abandoned like sheep without a shepherd.
When I requested the Department of Transportation and the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) to grant such privilege to seniors and PWDs, the TRB in its letter of Nov. 8, 2020, said: “RA No. 9994 which amended RA 9257 appears to have removed the pertinent part of the provision granting a 20% discount in toll fees for ‘skyways’ for SCs. The same situation obtains when RA 9442 was amended by RA 10754 when the provision granting a 20% discount on toll fees for PWDs was removed.”
The TRB said that its decision is based on an earlier opinion of the Department of Justice in a similar issue raised by the National Council on Disability Affairs that “the legislative intent appears to limit the coverage of 20% discount on actual fares for land transportation and travel, excluding toll fees in skyways and expressways.”
Indeed, a sad day for seniors and PWDs to know that it was not the “legislative intent” to grant them such privilege. But for sure, a great majority of our representatives and senators did not notice such deletion or removal of the word “skyways” from the said amendatory laws.
Thus, I am making this humble appeal to anyone of them to sponsor a bill reinstating the word “skyways” in the list of land transportation covered by the 20-percent discount for seniors and PWDs, make it clear that such discount applies to toll fees in skyways and expressways, and have the bill certified by President Duterte as urgent to expedite its passage.
It will not be difficult to apply the 20-percent RFID discount. For a load of, say, P1,000, a senior or PWD may pay P800 only, or the P200 discount could be added to his or her RFID card, giving her or him a total load of P1,200 for a P1,000 RFID load purchase.
ROMULO B. MACALINTAL, lawyer and advocate for senior citizen and PWD rights, Las Piñas City
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