Malacañang certifies budget bill as urgent; coco levy fund pending

Posted on October 07, 2015

PRESIDENT Benigno S. C. Aquino III has certified as urgent the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for next year, allowing the Lower House to expedite the approval of the measure.

Riverside view of Malacañan Palace -- BW File Photo
“Only the budget bill has been certified [as urgent] to date,” Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Manuel M. Mamba said in a text message to BusinessWorld on Tuesday.

Presidential certification allows the House of Representatives to dispense with the constitutional requirement of three readings on separate days for any bill to be passed.

House Majority Leader Neptali M. Gonzales II on Tuesday said the chamber hopes to approved the budget bill on third reading on Oct. 9, the last day of session before lawmakers go on a month-long break.

On the other hand, the bill creating a coconut levy trust fund for farmers is expected to be certified as urgent “anytime soon,” Mr. Mamba said.

The proposed law on the trust fund, which will hold assets in perpetuity to finance long-term programs for coconut farmers, was approved on Monday by the House committee on appropriations.

According to Finance Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresa S. Habitan, total coco levy assets amount to between P80 billion and P100 billion, which includes shares of stock and other financial assets bought using the taxes collected from industry workers under former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Executive Orders 179 and 180 signed by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III initially created the trust fund and laid the ground for the sale of the so-called coco levy assets, including the government’s 73.9% stake in United Coconut Planters Bank which was targeted for sale until a stay order was issued by the Supreme Court on June 30.

Mr. Mamba confirmed last week the PLLO received a request from the House to certify as urgent the bill amending the country’s Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law and the bill creating the coconut levy trust fund.

“BOT/PPP (public-private partnership) bill has not passed the committee level because of last-minute glitches yesterday (Monday) in the committees on appropriations and ways and means committee,” Mr. Mamba said.

Changes to the BOT law seek to institutionalize the standards and procedures for projects run by the PPP Center, the Executive office tasked to broker infrastructure deals with the private sector. -- Kathryn Mae P. Tubadeza