Amend or rescind Section 309 of CREATE law | Inquirer Opinion

Amend or rescind Section 309 of CREATE law

/ 05:02 AM September 22, 2022

The “return to workplace” call came abruptly in March. The government warned IPA-listed BPOs to get work-from-home (WFH) employees back onsite or lose tax perks, as big business/real estate groups issued their callback.

Despite talks of urban decongestion amid worsening pollution and transport problems, I’m afraid the government and most big business groups still prefer urban congestion, with workers crammed into overdeveloped business centers, rather than have more people work from home. Perhaps congested “fully occupied” business and commercial centers would indeed be welcome for oligarchs. Perhaps heavy traffic increases fuel tax collection by a significant amount. Who profits from congestion?

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The hybrid work setup is fast becoming the norm in many industries. Discouraging it will drive away good workers and foreign investors. We applied Section 23 of Republic Act No. 8424 to inactivate Section 309 of RA 11534 or the CREATE law, so BPOs can have WFH arrangements to avoid the COVID scourge and keep tax perks. COVID-19 killed more than 60,000 Filipinos in two years.

However, a resurgent scourge much deadlier yet less reported than COVID accompanies our return to the workplace: air pollution, which according to reports is responsible for the premature deaths of at least 66,000 people every year. With traffic congestion now overtaking pre-pandemic levels and worsening air pollution that kills more people than COVID, reactivating Section 309, which discourages WFH adaptation, makes no sense.

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Section 309, which requires BPOs to be “operated within the geographical boundaries” of an IPA zone, has proven discordant with other mandates such as RA 11165 or the Telecommuting Act. It impairs the CREATE law as it contravenes Section 2 (b), (c), and (d). By discouraging WFH, Section 309 weakens the nation’s capability for similar circumstances in the future (c). It impedes inclusive growth, jobs, and opportunities in all regions of the country (d). Thus, it obstructs the development of a responsive and globally competitive tax regime (b).

Section 309 must be modified or rescinded. It’s the sensible thing to do considering the times we now live in.

Ernie Lapuz,[email protected]

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TAGS: COVID-19, CREATE Law, pandemic, work from home
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