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CREATE: Crossing the finish line

On Nov. 26, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill was passed on third and final reading in the Senate, marking the end of more than two decades of struggle for fiscal incentive reform.

Housing as stimulus

“Build, Build, Build” has been the mantra of the Rodrigo Duterte administration, which undoubtedly was instrumental in the high economic growth before the pandemic. “Build, Build, Build” is associated with infrastructure. But “Build, Build, Build” should likewise have been an exhortation to build, build, build homes for the masses, the working classes.

Ralph Recto, the Donald Trump of the Philippines?

In a press statement, Action for Economic Reforms (AER) described Senator Ralph Recto as the Donald Trump of the Philippines. AER said that Sen. Recto behaves like President Trump: Trying to impose his will and having his way in shaping CREATE (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises). AER criticized Recto for delaying CREATE’s passage and for insisting on a position that perpetuates tax incentives for some exporters.

A narrow but clear victory

The American people have chosen change. Joe Biden is their President-elect, having obtained more than the 270 electoral college votes needed to win. With respect to the popular vote, with 93% of votes already counted, President-elect Biden leads by close to four million votes.

Building a resilient community through an inclusive local economy

In an effort to address the years of stagnation of the rice sector, the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) was signed into law on Feb. 14, 2020. The RTL should increase the rice competitiveness of the Philippines and improve the rice farmers’ well-being.

The long road to reform

Policy reform is a complex undertaking in our country. The weakness of our institutions and the bureaucracy’s vulnerability to political pressures often lead to constraints imposed on activists and reformers.

Lovely Cayetano

The lovely Cayetano is Pia, not Alan Peter.

The Rice Tariffication Law in a time of transition

Some politicians — pro-administration and anti-administration — and organized farmers have recently stepped up the call for amending the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL). This comes in the face of what they claim as a drop in fresh palay (unmilled rice) prices to as low as P12 in some areas, an existential threat to farmers.

The collective action of the health professionals

We have read and heard — and we have written — that beating COVID-19 is a collective action problem. It is in the common interest of the whole of society to get together and take united action against the pandemic. But getting together, despite having an indisputable common objective, is hard to do.

A seat at the table

There is an important lesson to be learned from countries such as South Korea and New Zealand that are considered very successful in slowing the spread of COVID-19: They have high social cohesion, public trust in government, and government accountability.

The struggle of memory against forgetting

Today, September 21-, marks the 48th anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’ proclamation of martial law in the Philippines.

Philippine Coast Guard: A small service with a big job in...

Not many are aware of the role of the Philippine Coast Guard in fighting the pandemic.

Amending the CREATE bill

With marching orders from no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself, expect Congress to approve the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE)...

Grief in the time of COVID-19

This year has been dark and catastrophic. And that’s an understatement. The latest update from the Worldometer website: 25,155,780 COVID-19 cases and 845,956 COVID-19 deaths. In the Philippines, the Department of Health has recorded 216,768 cases and 3,419 deaths.

What the two-week ‘timeout’ meant

The entire country, including the national government, paid attention to the call of 160 organizations representing healthcare professionals and workers. They sounded the alarm that we are losing the fight against COVID-19 and called for a two-week timeout from relaxed quarantine rules in the face of the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases. Their unified message was about the need to rethink the strategies to win the war against COVID-19.

No one is safe until we are all safe

I was ill in the last two weeks of March with the worst flu-like episode I had ever encountered. Given the state of COVID-19 testing at the time, I did not get myself tested. Actually, I could not. That was around the time the Philippines had tested only a little over 1,000 people due to a lack of testing kits.

Ameliorating the Social Amelioration Program

The current public health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all aspects of society, particularly income and employment. The unemployment rate rose to 17.7% in April, leaving 7.3 million Filipinos jobless. According to the World Bank, the two-month loss of income could increase the poverty rate by 3.3 percentage points in the Philippines.

Support the doctors

Our people are getting sick and dying because of COVID-19. Our health system is on the verge of collapse. We are experiencing a new surge of transmission, which could make our urban areas suffer the catastrophe that Italy and New York City went through.

COVID-19 as our ‘number one problem’

Said President Rodrigo Duterte:  “Perhaps our number one problem today is COVID.”

The Oligarchy

President Rodrigo Duterte said: “Kaya ko mamatay, mahulog sa eroplano. [I can now die, fall from an airplane.] I am very happy. Alam mo bakit? [You know why?] Without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controlled the economy of the Filipino people.”

COVID-19 too shall pass (118 Days of lockdown)

The COVID-19 Action Network (CAN) is a network of organizations and individuals working to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines. It was organized in the first quarter of this year to harmonize primarily the efforts of the civil society and the private sector in responding to the coronavirus pandemic and provide the Philippine Government and local government units (LGUs) with evidence-based and sound recommendations.

Is the tax cut a good stimulus?

The CREATE bill (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act) has drawn sharp criticism from some economists. A major if not principal criticism is about the accelerated reduction of the corporate income tax (CIT) from 30% to 25% in the very first year of the law’s implementation, if passed.

War and co-existence

That we are fighting a global war is often used as a way to describe the fight against COVID-19.

On the new Anti-Terrorism Bill

These are initial notes relevant to, not a comprehensive assessment of, the new Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB, Senate Bill No. 1083/ House Bill No. 6875) poised to be passed as “The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” (ATA) which would repeal R.A. No. 9372, the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA).

Powering the Philippine recovery: The Duterte Administration’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan

On May 14, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) unveiled PH-Progreso or the proposed economic recovery program of the Rodrigo Duterte administration. Building on earlier stages of the government’s four-pillar socioeconomic strategy against COVID-19, PH-Progreso entails a mix of supply-side, demand-side, and tax reform measures that are aimed at supporting a rapid or “V-shaped” recovery for the Philippine economy following the widespread disruption posed by the pandemic in the country.


Current economic policy is focused on fighting the pandemic. The Central Bank has loosened monetary policy, and the national government has hiked its expenditures by allowing a higher deficit.

Trust and credibility to win the war against COVID-19

Imposing and extending the lockdown or the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is a difficult choice to make. The biggest casualty is the economy. That the Philippine economy (and for the rest of the world) shrunk in the first quarter of 2020 was expected. Only upon the containment of the pandemic -- and we do not know when this will happen -- can the economic slump be turned around.

Roberto (Obet) Verzola: The known and the unknown

Many of Obet’s friends and colleagues have written fine, glowing tributes about his life. But there’s more to know about him, considering that he shied away from publicity and preferred to work in the background. For Obet, what mattered was the spread of a powerful idea, not the projection of his persona.

Expertise in the Time of COVID-19

Fellow BusinessWorld columnist Diwa Guinigundo had recently written a column, but for another newspaper, titled “My perspective on some lockdown perspectives” (see Manila Bulletin, April 30). In this column, Diwa criticizes two World Bank papers that emphasize the economic costs arising from lockdowns.

Comparing the Philippine economic package to fight COVID-19 to the response...

The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled economies all over the world, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicting the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression nearly a century ago. Governments are now scrambling to come up with policies and programs to mitigate the damage caused by the sudden downturn. Specifically, countries have been forced to set up stimulus packages to support areas and groups that have been hit hardest by the halt in economic activity.

Bringing the COVID-19 fight to where it lives

Exactly a month ago, former Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia (then the concurrent chair of the Commission on Population and Development or POPCOM, where I work as Executive Director) sent me a text.

COVID-19 social amelioration issues

Flattening the COVID-19 curve requires having a lockdown. In the Philippines, the lockdown is euphemistically called enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). The ECQ buys time until our system has conducted massive testing of all people with symptoms; done intensive contact tracing; and expanded health facilities and recruited health workers to accommodate and treat patients.

Luzon-wide transport ban hurts the poor, subverts public health

Kailangan ng taong pumunta sa palengke para bumili ng pagkain, sa botika para bumili ng gamot, at sa ospital para magpa-check-up o magpa-opera. Paano makararating sa ospital ang buntis para manganak at si lola para magpa-dialysis kung walang pampublikong transportasyon? (People need to go to the market to buy food, to the drugstore to buy medicine, to the hospital for a check-up or an operation. How can the pregnant women get to the hospital to give birth or the grandmother for her dialysis if there is no public transportation?)

How prepared are we to fight Covid-19? What has to be...

That all countries failing the test of beating COVID-19 is not an imagined fear. What we are seeing now is severe stress to the point of failure in all country health systems, regardless of preparedness.

COVID-19 and collective action

The Lancet, the most accessible peer-reviewed medical journal, discusses the COVID-19 crisis in stark terms. Read Roy Anderson et al., “How will country-based mitigation measures influence the course of the COVID-19 epidemic?” (March 9, 2020). The authors state that “we calculate that approximately 60% of the population would become infected.”

Water, transparency and mining concerns in the Philippines

The communities of Didipio, Nueva Visacaya have been up in arms against the operation of Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI). OGPI has been operating a copper-gold mine in Barangay Didipio in Kasibu, Province of Nueva Vizcaya. A Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) was awarded to OGPI in 1994, but the company only started its full operations in 2011. The first commercial production was reported in April 2013. Now, the FTAA has expired and is up for renewal.

CITIRA’s passage: Light at the end of the tunnel

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Senator Pia Cayetano has filed Senate Bill 1357, the Committee Report on the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act or CITIRA, and has sponsored it in the Senate’s plenary session. Nine of the 15 regular members and all three ex-officio members signed the committee report. Of the 12, one signed with reservation, three said they will interpellate, and six said they might introduce amendments. One of those who did not sign said he would interpellate. There are no disclosed reasons for the other five not signing, except that they were not physically present (truest for a controversially detained Senator) at the time.

Questioning road-widening as the main solution to traffic

Metro Manila is a bustling and bursting metropolis of over 24 million people. Among the mounting challenges faced by the metropolis, chief among them is moving people efficiently amid rising road congestion. Why are the streets of Metro Manila becoming more congested in the first place? Is there truly a way to decongest a city still steadily experiencing urban growth?

A reform long overdue

Much fuss has been raised about the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act or CITIRA (the erstwhile Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities or TRABAHO Bill), with claims that it affects the mood of investors who now choose to wait and see. What’s not emphasized enough is that much of the uncertainty results from the long-winded process the discussion on this reform takes. Proposals to rationalize fiscal incentives have been filed since the 10th Congress, mostly in the Lower House, with the Senate joining the fray starting in the 13th Congress. The push for the reform has been gaining momentum over time, getting much-deserved attention starting the 17th Congress. It has been more than two decades. The issue has clearly peaked, indicating that the reform is bound to happen. It will serve all sectors better the sooner the law is passed.

Taal: probing the judgment of scientists and the power of bureaucrats

My wife is Batangueño; some of her relatives are evacuees. So I have a personal interest in the human drama around the Taal volcano eruptions.

The UP Chancellorship

The University of the Philippines (UP), particularly Diliman, is abuzz. The process of selecting the next UP Diliman Chancellor has aroused the UP community, including the alumni.

Dina Abad’s lasting legacy

We gather with a purpose that is close to our hearts: the launching of the Dina Abad Emerging Leaders Fellowship program, and our celebration of her enduring legacy. What a fitting present for her birthday, which is eight days from today.

The Co-Chairperson’s Report

It is regrettable that the news and commentaries regarding the “Co-Chairperson’s Report” have focused on the finding that “the percentage of shabu seized is less than 1% of the total estimated consumption of shabu.”

The risk, despite the growth

The surveys show that the Filipino people are optimistic about the new year; that their lives will be better off in 2020.

Christmas 2019

Christmas is about love and peace. And hope.