THE House committee on ways and means approved a substitute bill seeking to reform the real property valuation system to allow local government units (LGUs) to better sustain themselves via property taxes, with the bill calling for uniform valuation standards and an electronic database of all real property transactions.

The still-unnumbered substitute bill replaces legislation originally filed in June as House Bill (HB) No. 54 by the committee chairman, Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda of Albay, author of HB 54.

Mr. Salceda said the substitute bill also grants LGUs more authority to set property tax rates, though they must adhere to the standard valuation to be developed by the Bureau of Local Government Finance.

The committee also cleared HB 2385, which extends the validity of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) to 2028.

ACEF, which currently holds P4.4 billion in assets, finances enhancement projects for small farms. Its effectivity had previously been extended to 2022 by Republic Act No. 10848.

The committee also approved HB 23, a measure setting limits on passport fees, granting a 50% discount to senior citizens and persons with disabilities on passport processing and renewal fees. HB 23 also barred the Department of Foreign Affairs from charging more than 50% of the current service fees for the processing of passports requiring special consideration, waiver, or issuance outside office hours.

The bill also proposes stricter penalties for forgery and improper use of passports and travel documents, as well as possession of multiple passports. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz