A lawmaker is to revive an old policy that waives travel taxes for anyone passing through Mindanao and Palawan ports to arrive at destinations within a Southeast Asian subregional economic bloc.
Davao del Sur Representative Mercedes Cagas filed House Resolution 1270 on September 4, urging President Rodrigo Duterte to renew the travel tax exemption policy that covers passengers arriving from the said ports to any destination in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
Currently, travelers departing from the Philippines to any destinations abroad pay a travel tax amounting to P1,620.
The tax exemption policy was first implemented in 1995 and renewed six times until its lifting in 2008, followed by the closing of some international routes, which include Davao-Kota Kinabalu and Davao-Manado.
Former President Benigno Aquino III issued a memorandum order on a similar policy on October 24, 2014. Valid for three years, the effectivity of the policy is set to end in October this year.
For Cagas, waiving the said tax would spur interest among investors to look into the prospects of doing business using the Philippine-EAGA routes.
“It is imperative upon the national government to capture interest of travel service providers to invest in the Philippine-EAGA routes by providing the necessary incentives,” she said in a statement prepared by the Mindanao Development Authority.
The BIMP-EAGA was launched in 1994 during the Ramos administration. At the time, Mindanao and Palawan ports had several flights that connect to the BIMP-EAGA areas.
But since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, many of these flights did not prosper and had to be closed due to a low passenger demand.
If the resolution is taken up by the President though, several existing international flights from Davao City’s Francisco Bangoy International Airport could take advantage of the proposed policy.
At present, the international airport serves a direct Cebu Pacific and Singapore Airlines route to Singapore. In December, it will begin to operate AirAsia Philippines flights to Kuala Lumpur.