Mobile phone text messages helped cause a revolution in the Philippines. Now the nation’s mobile phone lobby is in uproar again over a multi-million-dollar plan to tax texting.
A consumer group hit out Wednesday at the planned tax, which is making its way through parliament, warning the country’s 70 million mobile phone users would be unfairly required to carry the burden for a cash-strapped government.
“To rebel against this new tax law is justified,” TXTPower leader Anthony Ian Cruz told AFP as he warned legislators seeking re-election in next year’s national polls of a backlash.
The bill, proposing a five-centavo (0.1 cent) tax on every mobile phone short and multimedia message, could raise more than half a billion dollars a year.
It has already passed the committee stage of the lower house, and its proponents are now pushing for it to be endorsed fully by parliament and signed into law by President Gloria Arroyo.
They argue the money would be used to boost the government’s education budget.
But Cruz pointed out that the government already collected a 12-percent value added tax on mobile phone services.
Instead of imposing the tax, Cruz said the government should cut wasteful spending and stem the loss of money through political corruption.
“Congress must exercise restraint in looking for ways and means to finance government programs and operations,” he said.
Industry groups have branded the Philippines as the text capital of the world on a per capita basis, with up to 300 million messages criss-crossing phone networks every day.
In 2001, text messaging was used to gather tens of thousands of people on to the streets for a peaceful revolution that toppled the graft-tainted presidency of Joseph Estrada.