THE MARCOS administration should provide more assistance to small businesses, amend “restrictive” labor laws, and push for the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said.

The PCCI is set to turn over a list of 10 resolutions to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. at the 48th Philippine Business Conference & Expo (PBC&E) today (Oct. 20).

The resolutions cover food security, health, employment, education, national security, digitalization, environment and climate change, power, transportation, and international trade.   

“(We  are) urging the National Government to work together with the private sector to reenergize the economy by supporting new investments to generate employment, provide assistance to pandemic surviving micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), amend all restrictive and punitive labor laws and enact laws that will increase productivity,” the PCCI said.

Around 99% of businesses operating in the Philippines are MSMEs, which are recovering from lockdowns during the pandemic and are now grappling with rising inflation.

The unemployment rate inched up to 5.3% in August, slightly higher than the 5.2% jobless rate in July. This translated to 2.681 million unemployed Filipinos in August, up 79,000 from July.

Also, the PCCI urged the Marcos administration to immediately ratify the RCEP, touted as world’s biggest trade agreement.

“(We are) urging the National Government to hasten the ratification of the RCEP and to join bilateral free trade agreements (FTA) and trans-Pacific partnerships to minimize barriers to the free flow of goods and services,” it said.

The RCEP, which took effect on Jan. 1, is a multilateral FTA involving Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

However, the Philippines has yet to finalize its participation after the previous Senate failed to give its concurrence over the alleged lack of safeguards for the agriculture sector.

The PCCI said the Marcos administration should amend Republic Act No. 6657 or the Agrarian Reform Law.   

“(We are) urging the National Government to achieve food security by amending the Agrarian Reform Law to increase the land retention limit from five to 24 hectares, implement a debt condonation program for unpaid amortizations of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, and convert Certificates of Land Ownership Award into fee simple titles,” the group said.   

The PCCI said the National Government should also turn the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) into a science-based and transparent healthcare system and push for public-private partnerships in the implementation of Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care Law.   

Congress should also pass the proposed Open Access in Data Transmission Act to improve internet connectivity around the country, the business group said.

The government should also fast-track the integration of power grids in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to allow the free flow of electricity in the country, PCCI said.

“(We are) urging the Department of Energy (DoE) to amend the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act to allow 100% foreign investment in solar and wind projects,” it added. 

The DoE earlier this month said foreign ownership restrictions on investments in the renewable energy (RE) sector may be eased after the Justice department’s legal opinion that “exploration, development, and utilization of inexhaustible RE sources are not subjected to the 60:40 foreign equity limitation, as mandated by the Section 2, Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution.”

The DoE will have to revise the implementing rules and regulation of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, which expressly limits foreign investment in RE to 40%. — RMDO