July 21, 2022

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Business groups list 24 priority bills for 19th Congress

LOCAL BUSINESS GROUPS and foreign chambers urged the 19th Congress to prioritize the passage of 24 measures, which include the liberalization of foreign equity restrictions, two tax reform packages, and amendments to a law that would allow hybrid work arrangements of economic zone locators.

Twelve groups, including the American and European chambers of commerce, Management Association of the Philippines and Makati Business Club, sent a letter with a list of the proposed legislative reforms to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on July 20.

A copy of the letter was also sent to the incoming House speaker, Senate president and key Cabinet officials.

Mr. Marcos is set to have his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress on July 25. The 19th Congress will also open its first session on the same day.

“We look forward to working closely with the Marcos-Duterte administration and the 19th Congress to pursue the advocated reforms and others that will generate substantial impact in achieving inclusive growth through job generation, increased investment, poverty reduction, and improved global competitiveness,” the groups said.

The list includes seven bills that reached “advanced stages” of approval in the last Congress — liberalization of foreign equity restrictions in the 1987 Constitution, open access in data transmission; ease of paying taxes, promotion of digital payments, creation of the Department of Resilience, and the last two tax reform packages of the Duterte administration.

Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno earlier said he would push the passage of the remaining tax reform packages on improving real property valuation and simplifying financial taxation. The proposed property valuation and assessment reform seeks to broaden the tax base, while the capital income and financial taxes reform, seeks to simplify the taxation of passive income, financial services and transactions.

The Ease of Paying Taxes bill seeks to simplify the process of filing and paying taxes by removing venue restrictions, while the Open Access in Data Transmission bill aims for increased competition in the digital service industry by easing the requirements to enter the telecommunication sector.

The business groups’ list also includes amendments to the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Act to allow hybrid and flexible work arrangements for economic zone locators.

Also included in the list is the proposed Freedom of Information Act, as well as amendments to the Secrecy of Bank Deposits Law, E-Commerce Act, Intellectual Property Code, Build-Operate-Transfer Law and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) charter.

Other measures include national unemployment insurance, the proposed Pandemic Protection Act, Holiday Rationalization Act, creation of the Philippine Airports Authority, Philippine pension system portability, Apprenticeship program reform, International Maritime Trade Competitiveness Act, and Satellite-based Technologies Promotion Act.

The business groups also identified as priorities a measure easing ownership of agricultural lands and the repeal of the Commonwealth Act 138 (Flag Act). — R.M.D.Ochave