Top business groups press Congress on 17 reform bills

MORE THAN A DOZEN business groups are pressing Congress to pass 17 priority reform bills in its third and final session which opens later this month.

Fifteen business groups representing various industries and foreign chambers wrote a letter to President Rodrigo R. Duterte advocating for the passage of 17 measures, which they say will help the economy recover from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“With one year left in the current Congress, we believe the 17 measures are achievable reforms that will generate substantial impact in achieving our shared vision of inclusive growth through job generation, poverty reduction, and global competitiveness,” the groups said in a statement on Wednesday.

“These reforms will also support economic recovery and higher GDP growth in 2022 and beyond in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The business groups said that Congress should pass pending amendments to the Foreign Investments Act, Public Service Act, and Retail Trade Liberalization Act as these would open up the economy to more foreign investment.

They also support the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience and Department of Water Resources Management.

They also backed the passage of the government’s remaining tax reform packages, namely the Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act and Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act.

The former would broaden the property-related taxes of the government and generate more revenue for local government units “without increasing the existing tax rates or devising new tax impositions,” while the latter aims to simplify the tax structure for financial instruments.

Mr. Duterte last month asked Congress to pass these last two tax reform bills, both of which are still pending at the Senate.

The business groups also supported measures on 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, and Secrecy of Bank Deposits Law amendments.

“Most of these bills have reached advanced stages in Congress and require counterpart action in the House or Senate,” the groups said.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said the same, noting in a mobile message that “most of these bills are in the advance stages in the Senate plenary.”

The groups said that they sent the letter in anticipation of the President’s final State of the Nation Address and Congress opening its third regular session on July 26. Separate letters were also sent to Mr. Sotto and to House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco.

The business groups include Alyansa Agrikultura, Bankers Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Foundation for Economic Freedom, IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc., and the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation, Inc.   

Foreign chambers that have signed the position paper include the American, Australian-New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese, and Korean business groups. — Jenina P. Ibañez