‘Critical state’: Private schools seek Senate passage of bill vs tax rate hike

Published by rudy Date posted on September 14, 2021

by Philstar.com, 14 Sep 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Private school groups have urged the Senate to fast track the passage of a bill rectifying a tax rate hike on their members, as they said enrollment in their sector this year has plunged anew.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue in July suspended provisions of its RR 5-2021 that would have imposed a 15% increase in private schools’ income tax rate.

Part of the finance department’s consideration was there are two pending bills in Congress that seek to clarify the matter, including Senate Bill 2272.

“As we start a new school year, the private education sector is in critical state,” said the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations in a statement, citing latest enrollment figures.

COCOPEA said as of September 13, enrollment in private schools was down by 57% from the 3.37 million in 2020, and was even lower by 66% from the 4.30 million before the pandemic.

The turnout in private schools this year a day later would go up to now at 1.56 million, per data from the Department of Education, out of the 25.58 million in total.

“It is amidst these dire circumstances, and the country’s ongoing learning crisis, that we renew our appeal for the immediate passage of this most important legislative intervention,” said Anthony Tamayo, COCOPEA president. “So that our member educational institutions can give full focus to delivering quality education for our learners.”

Senators in June backed private schools against BIR’s regulation, with now 13 members of the chamber co-authoring the SB 2272.

While COCOPEA had welcomed the suspension of the tax hike, they said the fight was not yet over as the bills had remained pending.

“Cognizant of the tight timeline, we pray that with your continuing support,” Tamayo added, “[it] will be passed into law this month, before Congress breaks in October for the filing of candidacies for the 2022 national elections.”

COCOPEA cited findings from a survey on its 250 member schools that showed 80% reporting economic woes of families and students’ migration to public schools.

For schools to cope with declining enrollment, the group added 71% are considering a “no work, no pay” scheme for their employees, while 64% are looking into retrenchment to remain afloat.

More than half of the school respondents or 55% of them are also considering closures. “These would be in addition to the 865 private schools that suspended their operations last school year,” COCOPEA continued.

Apart from SB 2272, a measure in the House of Representatives has also been filed. Both aim to amend the national revenue code, and qualify both non-profit and proprietary schools to avail the tax cut under CREATE law.

“The country’s human capital depends on the quality of education our learners receive from both public and private educational institutions,” Tamayo said.

Classes in the Philippines officially resumed on September 13. But lessons would have to be carried out again in homes, as the government has still not allowed a return of in-person classes.

This September, the United Nations Children’s Fund has said the Philippines is among the last two countries in the world, along with Venezuela, that have yet to reopen schools physically.

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