On Wednesday, November 14, the Senate re-approved a revised version of the bicameral committee report on the ratified Expanded Maternity Leave (EML) Bill, according toManila Bulletin.
The Senate returned the initial bicameral report already ratified by both the upper and lower houses of Congress on Monday, November 12,for some fine-tuning, after it's been discovered that provisions on appropriations and tax exemptions have been added to it.
Senate Majority LeaderJuan Miguel Zubiri said during the session on Monday that these provisions were opposed by the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), reports GMA News. "Those were not approved by both chambers in plenary," he added.
"Upon consideration of the bicameral report, the bicameral conference committee agreed to delete the provision exempting the maternity leave benefit from income tax, Section 6, and the appropriations provision, Section 20," said Senator Risa Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality, during the session on Wednesday.
Hontiveros, in a statement sent to Business World, explained that the DOF wanted the EML bill to be clear in that "there will be no appropriation measure," as it provides only up to the ceiling of Social Security System (SSS) for maternity benefit. That's at P16,000 for women earning minimum wage and below.
How will this affect the EML bill? "It doesn't affect the overall package," Hontiveros said via a statement sent to Smartparenting.com.ph via text message. The versions approved both by the House of Representatives (HOR) and the Senate do not carry the tax exemption clause, to begin with. It was only inserted during the bicameral process.
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"Both HoR and Senate agreed to let go of the bicam tax exemption provision to consider the concerns of the DOF," Hontiveros added. She also assured that "all other provisions are maintained."
These provisions include, first and foremost, 105 days of paid maternity leave to all working new mothers both in the government and private sector, seven of which are transferable to new fathers on top of their seven-day paternity leave. New moms also have the option to extend their maternity leave for another 30 days without pay. Single mothers also get an additional 15-day paid maternity leave.
These benefits will also be provided to women for every instance of pregnancy, abortion or miscarriage, or stillbirth, regardless of marital status.
Even after the delay and revision, Hontiveros expressed confidence that the EML will be signed into law before the end of the year.