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LKI 2020 -057 Press Statement
AUGUST 31, 2020
LABAN KONSYUMER LAUDS 18TH CONGRESS FOR VARIOUS BILLS ON CONSUMER WELFARE
In a statement, Vic Dimagiba, President of Laban Konsyumer Inc. participated as resource person in various pending Bills in the 18th Congress that enhances consumer protection in the digital and electronic commerce, revisiting the 20 year old Consumer Act of the Philippines as well as strengthening product safety and standards in the household LPG industry.
Laban Konsyumer Inc. supported Senate Bill 1583 extending the term of the lifeline rates, as mandated in Sections 43 (J) and 73 of Republic Act No. 9136 or the EPIRA law.
However ,the group said “we submit that the Committee also consider to repeal and terminate the cross subsidy authorized under Section 74 of the EPIRA. At the moment non-lifeline consumers subsidize the amount of Php 0.0604 pkwh as lifeline subsidy in their bill. After 20 years from the EPIRA, there should be no more authorized cross subsidy.”
Below is the saving in the removal of lifeline subsidy : 200 kwh-Php 12.08; 300 kwh Php 18.12; 400 kwh – Php 24.16 and 500 kwh – Php 30.20.
On Senate Bill 1188 or LPG Act, the group proposed a cooling off period for public officials of the implementing agencies who retire, resigns or quit the public office for a period of one ( 1 ) year before joining employment in the LPG industry. This is consistent with Section 7 of Republic Act 6713 on Prohibited Acts and Transactions of the Code of Ethics of Public Officials.
The LPG Act wil eliminate the circulation of generic LPG cylinders , which have no markings, labels, tare weight and are unsafe for household use .
On the other hand, in the counterpart House Bills 302 and 5642 on LPG , Laban Konsyumer proposed to harmonize the House bills with the Senate Bill 1188 to speed up the enactment into law of the LPG Act.
Laban Konsyumer Inc. also submitted its position paper on Senate Bill 1591 or the Internet Transactions Act and proposed the following major points:
1. A provision that shall authorize the Philippine Competition Commission to investigate and enforce under the Competition Act any commission of acts by the Online Selling Platforns, merchants and third party suppliers that may violate the Competition Law to the prejudice of the consumers.
2. That the E -Commerce Bureau be renamed E -Commerce Commission , due to the composition , and should be a one stop shop , stand alone government agency in the like of the Philippine Competition Commission and dealing arms length relationship with the implementing regulatory agencies which shall continue to discharge their duties under their own respective charters.
It will enhance Consumer Empowerment if a consumer representation be included in the composition of the Commission, as well as in the E -Commerce Trust Mark, in the like of an independent director sitting on the Boards of publicly listed companies.
The E -Commerce Commission should handle and resolve all consumer complaints.
3. On the Definition of Terms, Consumer should retain its universal definition as referring only to natural persons. In this Bill, the online sellers are mostly juridical entities and it will look awkward for the E – Commerce Commission to handle consumer complaints involving juridical entities.
4. On provisions relating to qualification and registration of online merchants, the E- Commerce Commission should be authorized to act moto propio or on its own action, to place a firewall or block all online selling platforms, domestic or foreign, that fails to register under the law. Thus, they cannot do business in the country, unless they comply with the law.
5. On section 17, we propose a straightforward joint and solidary liability amongst online platforms and merchants. The provision as worded is litigous and can prejudice the consumer rights for a fair and honest resolution of the complaints.
The House version, House Bill No 1622, had been approved by the Committee on Trade and Industry and is awaiting floor deliberation. Laban Konsyumer fully supported the joint and solidary liability of the online platforms and the merchants or service providers in favor of the consumers.
Regarding Senate Bills 363 and 401, on the conversion of Waste to Energy, Laban Konsyumer submitted that there is a necsssity for the national and /or local government units to provide funding support and financial incentives for the Waste to Energy facilities in pursuit of the policy of conversion of waste to energy .
At the present , the energy policy is tilted in favor of the renewable energy sector for the benefit to the environment as well as the viability of the commercial operation. The sector receives an assured Feed in Tariff as well as an additional Feed in Tariff Allowance for a 20 year period.
Laban Konsyumer placed on record its opposition to the proposal of the Renewable Energy stakeholders to consider Waste to Energy as a form of Renewable Energy and thus entitled to the Feed in Tariff incentives under the Renewable Energy Law. Another group,the Citizens Watch joined Laban Konsyumer in said opposition.
Senate Bills 1454 and 1473 proposed revisions to the Price Act and expanded the coverage of state of calamity to include pandemic such as the Covid 19.
Laban Konsyumer proposed to add Personal Protective Equipment , as well Gasoline and Diesel in the list of Basic Necessities.
The Department of Energy supported the inclusion of Gasoline and Diesel as Basic Necessities.
The Department of Industry proposed to make Suggested Retail Price as mandatory , and the non compliance is punishable by fines and imprisonment.
A major Bill filed in the House is the unnumbered substitute Revised Consumer Act.
Laban Konsyumer stated that overall, we are not endorsing the Substitute Revised Consumer Protection Bill in its present version but we are proposing a leaner version in the light of other recently enacted laws as well as pending bills that empowers consumer protection and to avoid repetitive and redundant provisions. Our proposal shall eliminate the splitting of responsibilities among different implementing agencies over the same provisions of the Bill.
On food, drugs, medical devices ,cosmetics and toys, and Households/Urban Hazardous substances the Food and Drug Administration are empowered primarily in Republic Act 3702, as amended by Exeutive Order No. 175 and Republic Act No. 9711. More recently, the Food Safety Law or Republic Act No. 10611 expanded the powers of the Food and Drug Administration , and other agencies including the Department of Agriculture and strengthened the food safety regulatory regime in the country.
For financial consumer protection and literacy, there is a pending bill authored by Congressman Junie Cua entitled Financial Consumer Protection Bill or House Bill 6768 . It has been passed on 3rd reading and transmitted to the Senate on June 3,2020. This Bill is supported by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Insurance Commisssion and the Laban Konsyumer Inc.
The bulk of the proposed Bill shall continue the consumer protection functions of the Trade and Agriculture Departments . However, the Agriculture Department primary duty is to ensure the growth of the agriculture sector. The same can be said for the Trade Department as it pursue the industry and competitiveness development of the country.
It is thus our suggestion for the consideration of the TWG to provide for an entity solely and wholly as a Consumer Protection entity whose primary mandate shall be exclusively consumer welfare and protection, and an agency outside the budgetary and manpower support of the Department of Trade and Industry.
We likewise propose an oversight and advisory entity that will be composed of registered consumer organizations whose members shall serve pro bono and without regular compensation . Congress can be included as members of the oversight and advisory body.
On the consumer rights under Section 4, we propose to include the protection of consumers using electronic commerce that is not less than those afforded in other forms of commerce, the right to consumer privacy and the global free flow of information and the promotion of sustainable consumption. These are contained in the recently amended United Nations Guidelines in Consumer Protection or UNGCP .
On various House Bills on rural electrification , our group proposed that Congress looks into the matter of Missionary Charges that all consumers pay at the moment in the amount of Php 0.1561 per kwh. Inasmuch as the National Electrification Administration or NEA is subsidized by the General Appropriation Law and that electric cooperatives are private entities, there appears no more basis to continue the missionary charges being collected from all consumers. An appropriate amendment of the provision of the EPIRA law could be in order.
There were close to 20 Bills filed in Congress on e-cigarettes or the Electronic Nicotine and Non Nicotine Delivery System and Heated Tobacco Products. Recently, the House Committee on Trade and Industry jointly with the Committee on Health approved an unnumbered Substitute Bill on the subject.
Laban Konsyumer supported the position of the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration in the implementation of Republic Act 11467 that imposed higher excise taxes on ENDs/ENNDS/HTP and the regulation of the industry. A draft Implementing Regulations had been prepared and willl be ready for signature.
Finally and hopefully, the Bill on the Timbangan ng Bayan will be signed into law.