Palace to leave 10-centavo text tax decision to House

THE Palace will leave to the House of Representatives the decision whether or not to pursue the crafting of a revenue measure involving a 10-centavo tax on cellphone text messaging.

Press Secretary Cerge M. Remonde said the Palace deems it fit to leave the matter to the congressmen since the initiative emanated from Congress itself.

In answer to a question posed in a radio interview yesterday, Remonde said the Palace will, however, look into the details of the proposed measure authored by Quezon province Rep. Danilo Suarez, house oversight committee chairman.

Suarez earlier said the 10-centavo fee per text message could help generate a huge amount that could be channeled to education and other socio-economic measures under the government’s economic stimulus program to help mitigate the effects of the global economic meltdown.

The congressman assured that initiatives will be made to convince telecommunication firms Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular not to pass on to consumers the proposed fee since it constitutes only a tiny share from the huge revenue they derive from their text message charges.

Filipinos reportedly dispatch an average of two billion text messages a day, earning for the Philippines the reputation as the “texting capital” of the world.

A 10-centavo tax per message, Suarez noted, could generate the government some P200 million a day for its economic stimulus program focused on education, health, services and other socio-economic undertakings designed to help the country ride out the global economic crisis.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Prospero C. Nograles said he is inclined to support moves to impose a 10-centavo fee on text messages provided that this will not be passed on consumers as he insisted that the P1 per text rate should be cheaper by 75 centavos.

“Even if we charge a 10-centavo fee on every text sent, the telcos are still overcharging us by 65 cents per text,” Nograles said.

He said that the 10-centavo fee for each text messages can go a long way in funding the government’s health care and educational programs but stressed the amount should be taken out from the regular cost being charged by mobile phone service providers.

The lawmaker said the estimated threshold amount or cost of text is about 25 centavos but telcos charge an average of P1 per text for its non-promo rates.

Nograles has been calling for the country’s telecom giants to practice social responsibility by setting aside some P200-million from the approximately two billion text messages sent by Filipinos per day on the average.

“Being the so-called texting capital of the world, our people should be able to benefit from the billions of profits of our telcos. In the first place, text services should not even be charged being a value added service and since our telcos are raking in so much profit from this service, we might as well ask them to give back to our people,” he pointed out.

Nograles even proposed that to avoid questions on the disbursement of the fees generated from text messages, the fund can be administered by a “board” composed of owners and telecom players plus the Secretary of Health and Secretary of Education to manage the “exclusive trust fund” to make sure that it is spent only on the upgrading of public schools, hospitals and health centers nationwide.

He said: “In the Philippines, texting has become the mass-based linkage–the cheapest and most reliable means of communication.”
“Telecom companies are well aware that it is the masses of the people, particularly the middle and lower classes that sustain their profitable business at an average of two billion text messages per day at P1/text message,” Nograles said. With a report from Gil Bugaoisan


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