SRP on gadgets? DTI to decide soon

Elroy Mariano

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will decide this week whether suggested retail prices (SRP) will be imposed on gadgets like laptops. In an interview with Teleradyo yesterday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the DTI Consumer Protection Group headed by Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo is currently studying if […]

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will decide this week whether suggested retail prices (SRP) will be imposed on gadgets like laptops.

In an interview with Teleradyo yesterday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the DTI Consumer Protection Group headed by Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo is currently studying if price caps need to be put in place on gadgets.

“This week, we will release the decision if we will put SRP,” Lopez said.

He added that the DTI initially had misgivings on putting price caps on gadgets.

“We are reluctant when it comes to computers and gadgets because they have different features, prices, performance and power. The SRP is not one size fits all,” he said.

If the study would show the need to have the SRP, however, the trade chief said this would be applied to the basic features of the gadget.

“If needed, that’s why we are studying it, we will put (SRP) on most basic features. Let’s say, how many gigabytes the hard drive (has), how many gigabytes its RAM (has), so at least there can be controls there,” he said.

Based on Lopez’s observation, many suppliers and options are available for consumers looking to purchase gadgets.

He said the price range also varies, with some considered affordable and certain brands having a higher price.

“But if you are after connectivity, just being able to connect, there are many you can choose from at lower prices,” he said.

Demand for gadgets such as laptops has increased as many companies implemented the work-from-home scheme for its employees due to the coronavirus disease pandemic.

There is also demand coming from students as schools hold classes online while the crisis persists.

Registration deadline extended

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has further extended the deadline of registration for online businesses, giving merchants until the end of the month to comply with the requirements.

In a text message, BIR deputy commissioner Arnel Guballa said the registration deadline for online sellers has been moved from yesterday to Sept. 30.

“(This is) to accommodate online sellers. Many still want to register,” Guballa said.

He added that a total of 5,650 online merchants have so far registered with the bureau. This, however, does not represent the whole population of online entrepreneurs yet.

In June, the BIR issued Revenue Memorandum Circular 60-2020, reminding those doing businesses through digital platforms to comply with tax regulations.

Aside from registering their businesses, the BIR also encouraged online sellers to voluntarily declare their past transactions and pay corresponding taxes.

The deadline was originally set on July 31, but the BIR extended this to Sept. 1 in response to the clamor of online sellers, who asked for more time to comply with the requirements due to movement restrictions amid the pandemic.

Guballa had earlier said the circular was issued to determine the total population of individuals and enterprises earning money through digital platforms.

This comes at a time when there is a surge in digital transactions, with more people resorting to online selling due to the pandemic.

The BIR, however, clarified that the circular does not aim to increase the tax burden of small online business owners, but rather, to capture large online businesses into the country’s tax net.

Meanwhile, the BIR and the Department of Finance are working on a framework that will enable the government to collect value-added tax from online transactions.

‘Academic freeze’ sought

In another development, a student organization has called on President Duterte to issue an executive order that will suspend the opening of classes on all levels until the end of the year.

Members of the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) on Monday held a protest action at the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) central office in Quezon City to amplify their call for an “academic freeze,” which they said would give the government ample time to prepare for the shift to blended learning.

“All it takes is for Duterte to sign his name once, and millions of students and their parents will be alleviated from the burden of online classes until January,” SPARK spokesman John Lazaro said.

“Duterte paid much lip service to the idea of postponing classes until a COVID-19 vaccine (will have been) found. Now, he must put his pen where his mouth is and act on it,” Lazaro added.

The President had earlier said he would not allow the reopening of classes until a vaccine for the viral illness is available.

Officials later clarified that the President was referring to the conduct of face-to-face classes, noting that the school year may proceed using various types of distance learning modalities.

Last month, the Department of Education (DepEd) deferred “for the last time” the opening of classes in public schools to Oct. 5 to give more time for preparations, particularly for the printing of modules that will be used by most students.

The DepEd allowed private elementary and high schools to open ahead of the schedule in public schools.

Meanwhile, postponing the opening of classes does not cover higher education institutions, according to CHED chairman J. Prospero De Vera III.

“Universities open their school year as approved by their board depending on the way they structure their semesters,” De Vera said in a television interview on Aug. 14.

“The school year structure is determined by the individual universities in the exercise of academic freedom, which is a constitutional guarantee for higher education,” he added.

De Vera noted that many colleges and universities resumed classes last month.

Some have decided to defer their school opening to Oct. 5, such as the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

Several groups within the University of the Philippines are also calling for the deferment of the opening of classes. The university is set to begin the school year this month.

The two-month postponement in the opening of classes in public elementary and high schools would not be sufficient to close the glaring gaps of the digital divide, according to SPARK.

“The pandemic did not only expose the crisis, but was exacerbated further by the insistence of DepEd and CHED to pursue online classes despite severe handicaps in our information technology infrastructure and telecommunication industry,” Lazaro said.

The DepEd has repeatedly clarified that online-based education is not the mode of learning that would be adopted this school year, noting other delivery platforms such as the use of modules, radio and television.

CHED said higher education institutions may adopt different flexible learning strategies.

Earlier policy directives noted that face-to-face classes may be conducted in low-risk areas starting January, subject to compliance with health standards and other guidelines that will be set by relevant agencies of the government. – Mary Grace Padin, Janvic Mateo

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