Bill restoring elderly toll discounts pitched

CONGRESS was asked to refile and finally pass a bill granting Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) discounts to elderly citizens.

Romulo Macalintal, elderly rights advocate and election lawyer, sought the support of lawmakers to give priority to the bill, principally authored in the 18th Congress by former Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza.

He reminded lawmakers that October 1 to 7 is Elderly Week, as provided in Republic Act No. 10868 or the Centenarians Act of 2016.

House Bill No. 9644 by former Senior Deputy Speaker Atienza, grants 20-percent discount for senior citizens travelling through tollways in skyways using radio frequency identification devices (RFID), provided  the cars are registered in their names.

The bill restores the benefit which was clearly provided under Section 4(h) of Republic Act No. 9257, or the Expanded SC Act of 2003, which states, among others, that the senior citizens are entitled to 20 discount in “skyways.”

However, when RA 9257 was amended by RA 9994 or the Expanded SC Act of 2010, instead of “expanding” SCs’ benefit, their 20-percent discount on toll fees was deleted when the word “skyways” was removed by RA 9994 from the list of transportation services where SCs could access such discount.

Thus, Macalintal recalled, when this issue was raised to the Toll Regulatory Board , the TRB said it was the Department of Justice’s opinion that the amendatory law showed that “the legislative intent appears to limit the coverage of 20-percent discount on actual fares for land transportation and travel, excluding toll fees in skyways and expressways,’ as if travelling through skyways is not a form of land transportation.

The Atienza bill is seen to be the answer to the SC’s “very sad situation,” since said bill will not only restore the word “skyways” in the bills, but  will make it very clear that the 20-percent discount applies to “skyways and expressways whose toll fees are paid through the radio frequency identification devices (RFID) or similar systems,” Macalintal said.