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Three departments tasked to identify key projects eligible for regulatory relief, waivers

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THE Departments of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Trade and Industry (DTI) and Finance (DoF) will form a committee to identify critical private-sector projects deemed crucial to the post-pandemic landscape which will be eligible for regulatory relief.

The committee’s powers were defined in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Section 4 (nnn) of Republic Act No. 11494, or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II), which were issued Thursday.

Bayanihan II, signed into law last year and recently extended until the end of 2021, lays down relief measures to help the economy recover faster from the pandemic. It permits the government to extend regulatory relief and waive certain permits, licenses, certificates, clearances and other requirements. The relief applies to private sector-led projects deemed of national importance, or those judged yield significant economic returns and jobs.

The measure does not seek to provide exemptions from taxes, duties, border controls and environmental rules. The waivers are valid while the state of national emergency is in force, or until the end of June 2022.

“The Committee will work towards achieving the goal of the Bayanihan II to spur investment by speeding up the approval and implementation of private investment, stimulate economic activity and create jobs, so that our economy can recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in a statement Thursday.

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“It will not be granting blanket relief as the committee will still carefully consider the overall contribution of the projects and their impact on the general health and welfare of the public,” he added.

“While permits, licenses, and other similar authorizations will be waived for private projects that meet the directives of the Act, we will ensure that their proponents comply with all the other laws pertinent to the implementation of these projects,” Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu was quoted as saying in the same statement.

Private project proponents seeking relief should apply to the committee chaired by the DoF, according to the IRR.

Projects eligible for relief will be assessed based on a per-requirement basis, as well as their economic and social impact.

The IRR said projects likely be covered by the relief package are housing and resettlement works under the Balik Probinsya Program, and projects related to water supply and sanitation, watershed rehabilitation and protection, power generation, transmission and electrification to support the digital economy, and other critical services that will help strengthen security and promote peace.

“As such, the total cost of the covered project is not necessarily the sole basis in determining national significance,” it said.

The rules also bar any court, except the Supreme Court, from issuing temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions or preliminary mandatory injunctions against the committee and projects covered by the relief measures.

The government can also cancel at any time the relief granted to proponents if they are found to have violated the rules. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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