Business groups welcome call for passage of legislative measures

President Rodrigo Duterte is joined by Senate President Tito Sotto and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco at Congress during his last State of the Nation Address on July 26, 2021.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — Business groups welcomed the call of President Duterte in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) for the passage of legislative measures intended to help the economy bounce back from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employers Confederation of the Philippines president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in a telephone interview that they see as a positive development the push for the approval of the proposed amendments to the Public Services Act (PSA) and the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience.

For his part, Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. chairman George Barcelon said the group expects the proposed amendments to the PSA, the Retail Trade Liberalization (RTL) Act and the Foreign Investments Act (FIA) to be passed soon as Duterte has called for the bills’ immediate approval.

“While we support the passage of the bills, there needs to be finer points of the IRR (implementing rules and regulations). On the RTL, we are cognizant of small players locally. There must be guidelines that if foreign retailers come in, they should really add jobs to the economy,” he said.

The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) said in a statement it is also optimistic on the passage of the amendments to the PSA, RTL, FIA and the proposed creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience.

The bills form part of the priority list of legislative measures recommended by AmCham, other members of the Joint Foreign Chambers and Philippine business groups to Duterte, as well as to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco that need to be passed by the 18th Congress.

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“We see this as strong signals that the bills mentioned are being prioritized for passage soon. They will support economic recovery in the years ahead,” AmCham executive director Ebb Hinchliffe said.

Also welcoming the President’s call were the Alyansa Agrikultura, Bankers Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Foundation for Economic Freedom, Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation Inc.

The other measures that they want approved but were not mentioned in the SONA are the creation of the Department of Water Resources Management, Ease of Paying Taxes, Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations, Freedom of Information, National Land Use and Management, Open Access in Data Transmission, Philippine Creative Industries, Promotion of Digital Payments, Public Private Partnership, Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System, Secrecy of Bank Deposits Law amendments, Tax Reform Package 3: the Property Valuation and Assessment Reform, and Tax Reform Package 4: Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation.

“We are hopeful that all the bills will progress. Most have reached advanced stages in either the House or Senate and only need limited action towards final approval,” AmCham legislative committee co-chair John Forbes said.

Apart from the push for legislative measures, Ortiz-Luis said he appreciates Duterte’s acknowledgement of the private sector’s support in addressing the impact of the pandemic, particularly the partnership forged by business groups with the government for the creation of one million jobs this year.

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