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Romualdez backs DU30’s reforms, vision

Martin Romualdez
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Thursday rallied support from members of the US-ASEAN Business Council for President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s vision and programs, assuring them that Congress has been working very hard with the Chief Executive to introduce reforms and attract more foreign investors into the country.

​Speaking during the joint virtual meeting via Zoom, Romualdez assured senior business executives that lawmakers have been exerting all efforts to ease doing business in the Philippines and make a more conducive business environment that would foster economic growth.

​“Our President has laid out the survival and recovery roadmap for us to consider. We, in the House of Representatives, are in full support of this plan and are ready to face the challenges spelled out by our President. As partners in nation-building, we readily commit ourselves to help realize the concrete plans and approve the proposed legislative measures provided by the President,” said Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, told members of the US-ASEAN Business Council 2020 Virtual Philippines Business Mission.

​Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, and AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, an economist and chairperson of the House Committee on Economic Affairs, also attended the virtual meeting as resource persons.

“I pray that you, my friends, will also lend your support to the President’s vision. May you continue to be with us every step of the way as partners in our recovery efforts. With you as our partners in nation-building, I know we will not fail,” Romualdez said.

​Romualdez recognized the huge contribution of multinational companies, especially in the government’s continuing efforts to reboot and rebound the Philippine economy from months of devastation caused by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

​“It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning (Thursday), knowing fully well the contributions that the Council has provided in strengthening the partnership between the Philippine government and foreign business groups. Truly, I am delighted to see all of you, still hale and hearty, despite the public health crisis gripping the globe today,” Romualdez said.

​“I am given the task to help walk you through with key administration priorities following President Duterte’s latest State of the Nation Address, as well as initiatives aimed at ensuring the country’s competitiveness and resiliency. You are in luck, my friends, as I hope I may be able to juxtapose the SONA priorities with the administration priorities based on the 2020 National Expenditure Program, which the Executive Department submitted to the House of Representatives last Monday, August 24,” Romualdez said.

​For over 35 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for United States corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), serving as the leading voice of the U.S. private sector in promoting mutually beneficial trade and investment relationships between the US and Southeast Asia.

​Some of the attendees during the US-ASEAN Business Council include Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez, Anne Corominas of PepsiCo, Ben Kamarck of Novartis, Aftab Ahmed of Citigroup Inc., The Coca-Cola Company, FedEx, Netflix, Dell Technologies Inc., Honeywell, United Parcel Service, PMFTC, Inc., and other multinational firms.

​Romualdez said President Duterte spelled out in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) priorities 21 legislative measures that he wanted approved by the 18th Congress within the last two years of his term.

​“Five of these measures deal directly with the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Romualdez said.

​He added the COVID-19 response bills include the recovery plan called “Bayanihan to Recover As One” Act and the bill providing incentives to financial institutions to sell their non-performing assets affected by the pandemic.

​The House leader said the “Bayanihan to Recover as One” Act, which allocates P165.5 billion for social amelioration and economic stimulus, has already been ratified by the Senate and the House of Representatives and is awaiting signature by the President.

​“Also included in the COVID response measures are bills that seek to establish a Medical Reserve Corps and create a National Disease Prevention and Management Authority to prepare for future outbreaks.​

The President also wants to protect online consumers and sellers alike after the industry started booming when lockdowns were imposed across the country due to COVID-19,” said Romualdez.

​Romualdez said the top priority measure of Congress is the timely passage of the proposed P4.5 trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2021.

​He said the President’s 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP) is higher than this year’s P4.1 trillion budget by 9.9 percent and equivalent to 21.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

​The House leader explained that the proposed 2021 national budget aims to sustain government efforts towards effectively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing government spending on improving the country’s healthcare systems, ensuring food security, increasing investments in public and digital infrastructure, and helping communities cope and prevail in these trying times.

​“The Executive Department has adopted the theme: ‘Reset, Rebound and Recover: Investing for Resiliency and Sustainability. This is consistent with the administration’s goal of saving lives andprotecting communities while making different sectors of the economy stronger and more agile,” he said.

​For the “Reset” component, Romualdez said the 2021 national budget will prioritize health-related COVID-19 response programs to address the continuing threat of the pandemic.

​“Hence, a big chunk of the budget will be allocated to the National Health Insurance Program, P71.4 billion; Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients, P17.3 billion; and Human Resources for Health Program, P16.6 billion,” Romualdez said.

​For the “Rebound” component, he said the national government will continue to advance the “Build, Build, Build” Program.

​“A total of P1.107 trillion for Public Infrastructure Program is embedded in the proposed budget for strategic infrastructuredevelopment and to create jobs and catalyze business activities allover the country,” he said.

​“A total of P1.107 trillion for Public Infrastructure Program is embedded in the proposed budget for strategic infrastructuredevelopment and to create jobs and catalyze business activities allover the country,” he said.

​For the “Recover” component, the House Majority Leader said the national budget will also prioritize government programs that help improve the productivity of the agriculture and fishery sector such as irrigation services, P15.7 billion; the National Rice Program, P15.7 billion; and the Rice Competitive Enhancement Program, P10 billion.

​He said the proposed budget will also support the Micro, Small and Medium Scale Development Program with P2.3 billion.

​Romualdez cited the “Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises” Act or CREATE, formerly the “Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises” Act (CITIRA), as President Duterte’s priority measure that the US-ASEAN Business Council may find worthy of examination.

​“This bill is considered as one of the largest economic stimulus measures in Philippine history. The House of Representatives already passed CITIRA last year, while the tweaks introduced by the Department of Finance in CREATE will be included in the Senate version, which may be reconciled later in a bicameral conference committee,” Romualdez pointed out.

​He explained that “the measure seeks to free up nearly P42 billion in business capital in 2020 alone and P625 billion in the next five years, partly due to the slashing of the corporate income tax rate from 30 percent at present to 25 percent.”

​“The government may consider this as foregone revenue, but we expect companies to reinvest this amount to recover from the pandemic recession,” Romualdez explained.

​He said another priority measure that concerns the US-ASEAN-Business Council is the “Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer” Act (FIST).

​Under the FIST Act, mechanisms allowing banks and other financial institutions to dispose of and transfer non-performing assets and loans to asset management companies similar to Special Purpose Vehicles are set in place, according to Romualdez.

​The lawmaker added that the House of Representatives has also approved last year the FIST bill, which “we hope, would assist banks and other financial institutions with offloading their debts and managing their non-performing assets affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

​“Proposed incentives include exemptions from the payment of documentary stamp tax, capital gains tax, creditable withholdingincome taxes imposed on the transfer of buildings, and value-added tax,” he said.

​He said other priority measures that the US-ASEAN Business Council may need to examine for impact on the business community include the following:

  • The “Rural, Agricultural, and Fisheries Development Financing System” Act, with a proposed P66-billion stimulus package that would help fisherfolk and farmers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. If passed into law, this bill would establish an enhanced financing system that would provide loans, grants, and investments to qualified fisherfolk and farmer-beneficiaries.
  • ​The “Internet Transactions” Act, which creates an e-commerce bureau that will be tasked to regulate online selling.
  • ​The National Land Use Act (NLUA), which, according to the President, must ensure responsible extraction and equitable distribution of natural resources. The measure seeks the creation of a National Land Use Authority that will draft and oversee a national land-use plan, classifying land according to use: protection (for conservation), production (for agriculture and fisheries), settlements development (for residential purposes), and infrastructure development (for transportation, communication, water resources, social infrastructure).
  • ​Department of Disaster Resilience Act, which creates a department solely focused on responding to calamities and other disasters. The measure is presently being debated on Second Reading in the House of Representatives.
  • ​National Housing Development bill, which aims to provide funding for and accelerate government housing projects for homeless Filipinos.
  • ​Rental housing subsidy bills which allow informal sector families to receive flat-rate rental cash aid from the government, aiming to give them access to the formal housing market.
Publication Source :    People's Journal