MANILA, Philippines — Senator Leila de Lima has filed a bill seeking to exempt from value-added tax (VAT) educational applications, gadgets, computers and e-books for the principal use of teachers and students in distance learning.
“Clearly, the inequality to the access of these tools and technologies is a reflection of the country’s socio-economic gap and the ‘digital divide’ worsened by the pandemic,” De Lima said in filing Senate Bill No. 1872.
Many households are forced to share their gadgets between parents, who need them for work, and the students who use them for education, De Lima noted.
Her bill seeks to amend Section 109 (1) of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended, to “encourage learning amid the current global health crisis.”
“In exempting educational tools and gadgets that will be utilized by the students and teachers [f]rom VAT, prices of these essential commodities which we can now consider as essential, will be reduced significantly therefore making them cheaper and more obtainable,” De Lima said.
The Department of Education (DepEd) instituted a blended learning approach in a bid to adapt to the new normal triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
DepEd officially opened the school year 2020-2021 on October 5.
Under the blended learning system, DepEd adapted a fusion of online distance learning or e-learning, which utilizes computers, smartphones, tablets, and the internet, and in-person delivery of learning modules and interactive facilities to the homes of the students through the barangays for those who do not have access to internet connectivity.
“COVID-19 is one of the most disastrous pandemics in recent human history. It wreaked havoc among nations of the world – putting life as we know it to a grinding halt. With the sudden pause, the pandemic posed unprecedented challenges even to education systems,” De Lima said.
“The State, while overburdened with the gargantuan responsibility of shielding the nation from the harms of the vicious virus, remains to carry the task of balancing its resources and capabilities to protect and promote this right to quality education,” she added.
While DepEd has repeatedly cited a survey which showed that the majority of the 700,000 teachers in the country have laptops and desktops in their homes, De Lima said the reality shows that a huge fraction of those who will facilitate e-learning and their students do not have the necessary tools.
The senator said her proposed measure will be an important instrument in encouraging students to continue with their education despite these challenging times.
“While the educational landscape has drastically evolved during this pandemic, the State must also come to the aid of this sector which has likewise been badly hit by the changing times,” De Lima said.
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