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Business groups pitch reform bills to 18th Congress

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House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III chat before President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City in this July 22 photo. -- REUTERS

By Charmaine A. Tadalan
Reporter

MEASURES that will further liberalize the economy to attract more foreign capital and make it easier to do business in the country made up a list of 28 proposed laws which 14 local and foreign groups have pitched to the 18th Congress.

The list, contained in a July 30 joint statement, came ahead of a Legislative-Executive Development Authority Council (LEDAC) meeting scheduled on Aug. 5 to discuss priority measures for the first of three regular sessions of the current Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri on Monday evening told reporters that closer coordination between the Executive and Legislative branches of government was needed to avoid presidential vetoes like the one last Friday that struck down a proposed law to further tighten labor contracting rules, which both chambers of Congress had worked on. “… [A]nother lobby group will approach the President, another chamber… will approach the President to have it vetoed, and it is vetoed while already certified [by the President as an urgent measure] — I think we should probably get coordination with Malacañang and that this may not happen again in the future,” Mr. Zubiri said.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a mobile phone message on Tuesday that the LEDAC meeting will discuss “priorities for the first regular session.”

Asked if Monday’s agenda includes all remaining tax reforms, which the House of Representatives has vowed to approve by yearend, Mr. Sotto replied “yes.”




National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon said in a separate text message, Tuesday, “there will be a LEDAC full council meeting in August” though there is “no definite date yet.”

Chaired by the President, LEDAC — formed under Republic Act No. (RA) 7640 of December 1992 to ensure close coordination between the Executive branch and Congress on priority measures — also consists of the Vice-President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, seven Cabinet members designated by the President, three senators designated by the Senate President, three members of the House designated by the speaker, as well as a representative each from local government, the youth and the private sectors.

The 14 business groups that proposed the legislative priorities were the Alyansa Agrikultura; American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham); Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.; Bankers Association of the Philippines; Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.; European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.; Foundation for Economic Freedom; Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines; Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, Inc.; Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.; Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines; Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc. and the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc.

The first set of proposed priorities, numbering 13, is topped by amendments to the 82-year-old Commonwealth Act No. (CA) 146, or the Public Service Act, which will lift foreign ownership limits in utilities; the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-quality Opportunities (TRABAHO) Bill which will reduce corporate income tax and overhaul fiscal incentives by making them performance-based and time-bound and by removing redundant ones.

“We convey our support on key provisions of the TRABAHO bill that are beneficial to our country’s economic growth but urge policy makers to review the other conditions that may negatively impact our global competitiveness,” the business groups said in a joint statement, Tuesday.

The first list also included measures amending RA 7042, or the Foreign Investments Act of 1991, which will remove restrictions on foreigners from practicing their professions in the Philippines; to RA 8762, or the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, which will reduce the required minimum paid-up capital for foreign entrants to the country’s retail sector; a proposed Apprenticeship Program Reform; Build Operate Transfer Law amendments; Freedom of Information Act; Bank Secrecy Law amendments; Lifting foreign equity restrictions; another tax reform to centralize property valuation and assessment; another package that will simplify the capital income and financial Tax system; a proposed open access in data transmission act; and one forming a Water Department.

The second list consists of a proposed Farm Entrepreneurship Act; Philippine Economic Zone Authority Act amendments; a further increase in excise tax on alcoholic beverages; Holiday Rationalization Act; National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority Act; National Land Use Act; National Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act; Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board amendments; amendments to the Philippine Ports Authority Charter; Water Regulatory Commission Act; Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Act amendments; CA 541 amendments to modernize rules for awarding public works contracts; National Transportation Safety Board Act and Philippine Airports Authority Act.

AmCham said the first list consists of proposals that got the highest number of votes among the chambers.

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