Press Release
October 7, 2020

Responses of Senate Ways and Means Chair Pia S. Cayetano To the questions of Sen. Franklin Drilon on the CREATE bill

Sen. Pia: The latest figures we have is 2017, and it's P441 billion. And in the previous years, they are all over P300 billion. So it averages around P300 billion. But the latest I have is 2017, P441 billion of foregone revenue.


Sen. Pia: What I can respond to based on my previous conversations is precisely why we want a CREATE law passed is because the application and approval of said application of every investor will also depend on their compliance in submitting all the data, including the IPAs. They must submit.

Apparently, the IPAs have not been submitting the documents to DOF, to DTI, and therefore the CREATE law will require. Because their being in good standing would be dependent also on their submissions. So as I said, for now, we only have 2017. For 2018, they have data but they are still disaggregating it, they are still consolidating, and analyzing...


Sen. Pia: (On the number of jobs generated by incentives granted) For 2017, 143,181 direct jobs.

Definitely, what we hope to achieve is to find out exactly what is the measure, the contribution of every investor for whom we are giving up these revenues for. In other words, as I said, P441 billion, it is divided by roughly 3,000 investors. And for sure, there would be some there that are employing thousands and thousands of employees, there would be some that are taking seriously the transfer of technology, that are introducing research and higher value added, then obviously, we would want that.

But then there would be those who have been receiving these incentives for more than 20 years and we don't even know, we don't have the data that show if they have been complying, how many number of employees they have, what is the value added?

The favorite example of the Secretary of Finance is one particular industry, a watch factory. And yet, ang value added natin is something like just the strap. Every other component is imported. And that's also why we are enhancing the deductions if the input is from domestic sources. Because we want them to be using domestic.

So basically, all of this has to be tracked so that we know exactly what these companies are contributing, and is it worth the foregone revenues.


Sen. Pia: Of course, we are not saying that everyone is abusing, but we are saying that we apparently do not have a system in place that compels these investors to be transparent, and neither does it seem to compel the IPAs to also demand transparency and to crack down on those that are not delivering.


Sen. Pia: Let me take his honor back a few years... I have a chart that shows that the FDI has been increasing more or less since 2010. And then it started taking a dip some time after 2017. The reason for this dip is global. It is not only the Philippines that has been experiencing a decline in FDI. This is due to the geopolitical situation in the US and China. A lot of investors have had this wait and see attitude in general.

However, what is worth noting is the following. PEZA's investment has more or less been on a continuous decline starting just before 2012... While FDI was going up, PEZA was going [down]. What does that tell us? Well, foreign direct investment until 2017 continued to pour in the Philippines. So if his honor and I agree that we still have much to do in terms of improving our investment environment, apparently, there are still investors that came in despite our incentives system. The conclusion there is, a lot of investors will choose to invest not because of the incentives alone. And that is shown in World Bank, in World Economic Forum data, that there are many reasons why investors come into a country. And incentives do not play the most important role.

I am not downplaying it, but that is a fact that it is not the most important reason for investors to come in. Thus, when the decline started to happen, that was already a worldwide phenomenon not exclusive to the Philippines.

I'd like to point out that BOI starting 2010 went a little bit up, went down... but actually started to peak after 2017. So as the Senate President Pro Tempore pointed out, who tend to be the BOI investors, a lot of them are those seeking the domestic market. They still continued to come in. and most of them would be local.


Sen. Pia: Meanwhile, in the last 18-24 months, the economic team has been in discussions with new investors and their statement is that they are in a wait and see attitude, specifically for the Philippines because of CREATE. These are targeted investors whom we want to come into the Philippines and they are awaiting the resolution of CREATE.


Sen. Pia: Despite actually having a GIE of 5 percent "forever," which there are some proponents in... we have colleagues who want to perpetuate that. And yet, why are we not able to attract these other companies that we are seeing are going to Vietnam and other neighboring countries?

I have some answers. This is just my own conclusions putting together all the information that I have and the research that has been given to me.

Number one, let's look at Vietnam. For one, we know that Vietnam has really been aggressively marketing themselves. And let me refer to the interpellation of our colleague, Sen. Dick Gordon, who really emphasized the importance of marketing. Number one, Vietnam is really out there selling themselves. And what are they selling? It's not all air, not just marketing. May laman ang kanilang offer. Number one, you can buy land in Vietnam. And we know that this is one of the issues that has been brought to our attention. We do not allow foreign ownership in our country.

Number two, the wages in Vietnam are very low. Much, much lower compared to us. Another third important factor is they are strategically located as far as China is concerned. Their proximity to certain economic centers of China, we cannot compete with that. So they are close to Tianjin. I don't know what other areas.

So those are three main factors that make doing business with Vietnam or transferring to Vietnam perhaps more attractive than ours on the surface.

But let me also add that next to Singapore, Vietnam has the most foreign trade agreements (FDAs) with other countries... We lag behind. So we all know how this works. You sign the agreement and as soon as you sign it, there's an exchange of the highest ministers... nakaabang na po ang deals to sign. Without that, then we are a little bit lagging behind because that arrangement, that relationship is already sealed by those factors.

And then there are other factors including transportation system, supply chain coordination, availability of local inputs, etc.

But I would just like to go back to marketing. When we market ourselves, I know from conversations with foreign business owners here... And we know it for a fact, the reason our BPOs are still thriving is because we dominate the world when it comes to the English language. But, our non-English speaking neighbors have been working double triple time for the last 10 years. Thailand has been getting our teachers. China for many years has been getting our teachers. I mention that because here we are, baka kulang na nga ng kaunti ang marketing to say this is the advantage we have... And yet, hindi buo ang ating picture. We are not focusing on that in our education system. It's a talent that we already have, and yet, we are not trying to boost the English language the way they are in our neighboring countries.

So maybe that edge we already have will soon disappear. That is the lack of coordination I am trying to say.


Sen. Pia: It is high time that we rationalize the incentives. There is no point in having incentives that are not time-bound at all. People should be accountable. Our investors should be accountable. But I must say we should not end there. There is so much more to be done.


Sen. Pia: This is the problem that we face. There is only one industry who was able to submit data to substantiate their claims that their industry would really be affected and jobs will be lost. And that industry is the garment industry. All other industries kept saying this is how much, and we asked for justification... For example, the BPO industry, data that the economic team have would show that they can recoup their investment in 18-24 months. And yet, of course, a lot of them, why would they complain or voluntarily return these incentives that we keep handing them on a silver platter, that we keep saying, "Go ahead, take it. We don't need those revenues." P441 billion that could be building schools, more targeted students for industries that we want, roads, infrastructure, warehouses, exactly the things that we lack.

If we don't do this now, when will we do this? It may not be on the top 10 list of what an investor is looking for, but they do look at it... And number two, if we don't we are bleeding revenues that could otherwise be put to better use, giving it on a silver platter to investors whom we thank came into the country but like any taxpayer, should be paying tax at some point in time.

So I go back to the general rule. You do business, you pay tax. What is the exception? You are coming from a particular sector or you are investing in a way that we want to support. And so for a limited period, for specific targeted goals, we will exempt you from paying taxes. And then you start paying. That's why we have to clean this up and the time is now.

A lot of senators who held the chairmanship of this committee and even those who have been here for a while have said ang tagal nang pending itong mga bill na ito. And we have come this close. I say it because I have come to realize the importance [and urgency] of this measure.


Sen. Pia: None of the industries were able to submit - whether it was in my committee hearings, which I had so many, or in the consultations that I had with them per sector and per company - none of them have been able to submit any data to substantiate the claim of the job loss, compared to the garment industry. That is why we were able to carve out specific provisions for the garment industry.

The data we have for BPOs show that in 18-24 months, they recover their investments. Many of them have been in the country for 10-20 years, they have been earning. If they will submit, we are duty-bound... We read the data, we do not ignore any data and can do basic analysis. Nothing was ever submitted to us to substantiate that.

The second point I wasn't able to get into is they failed to recognize that there is nothing about their incentivized benefits that will change the minute we pass CREATE. In the first to fourth year, they will still be able to enjoy it. We are simply being responsible and using futures thinking by saying, "In due time, in a reasonable amount of time, you need to be accountable for the incentives we have given. Not now during the time of COVID. Not next year, and not even in the next."

The earliest time that any current investor would start availing of the sunset clause that provides a slightly different rate would be after 4 years, and some would go up to 9 years. So to say that affected sila, hindi po. In 4 years, walang magbabago. Sa 4th pa lang mag-uumpisa... Is that not exactly what our job is about? To foresee these situations and put that into place so that we are not scrambling when the time comes? All of this will happen post-COVID. And obviously, if there are unexpected circumstances, God forbid na tumagal pa ang COVID beyond 3-4 years, Congress can easily go back and fix that. But the point is, it is not accurate and unfair to say na tatamaan sila ngayon and in the next year or two because wala pong change in the next few years. And when tatamaan sila, there is what we call a sunset provision that still provides them with a more gentle transition.


Sen. Pia: A bill is known to be complete when its title is comprehensive enough to embrace the bill's general objectives. The provisions of a bill are germane when all the parts of the bill are related or not foreign to its general subject or title.

In the case of Farinas vs. Executive Secretary, an act having a single general subject indicated in the title may contain any number of provisions, no matter how diverse they may be, so long as they are not consistent with or foreign to the general subject and may be considered in furtherance of such subject by methods and means of carrying out the general subject.

This is a Supreme Court case and there are many cases that support this.

We have an opinion of the Senate Legal Council, from the Senate Tax Study Research Office, and the Senate Parliamentary Council that all support this... There is absolutely no violation of the one subject rule.


Sen. Pia: We also have sufficient jurisprudence that would justify that this subject matter can be put together under one measure.

"Generally speaking, the courts agree that the statute may include every matter germane, referable, auxiliary, incidental, or subsidiary to and not inconsistent with or foreign to the general subject or object of the act."

And if you look at the title, it is very clear: An Act Reforming the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives System. What I mentioned as the guidelines provided by the court in that case is clearly present in the CREATE Bill. They are related, not inconsistent with the general subject or object of the act.

We have the legal opinions of three different, separate departments within the Senate. And the House also has their separate opinions. So I can assure my colleagues that we did not take that issue lightly. We wanted to be sure that we can also defend this. And we are convinced that we have sufficient and more than enough jurisprudence to ensure that this bill can stand that question of the one subject issue.


Sen. Pia: The Prado case that his honor mentioned actually concluded that it is not violative of the one subject rule. There was a discussion of what would be violative because it is the principle. These principles are used many times in many cases, but in the particular case that his honor is citing to prove that there was a violation, in fact, the ruling was there was no violation.

The jurisprudence I am citing in the Farinas case makes it very clear that similarly, the CREATE Bill is covered...

I would like to go into the details of the CREATE bill and why it is my humble opinion that it is complete on its own and it will pass the test.

First, we look at the title: Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprise Act. That in itself is complete, it satisfies the constitutional requirement of completeness because it sufficiently informs the legislators and the public of the nature, scope, and consequences of CREATE and its operations.

CREATE, in no uncertain terms, proclaimed just one policy, that is reforming the CIT and incentives system by codifying into one general law all the taxes and incentives provision for business enterprise.

The other matter is germaneness of the test. A statute may include any matter germane to its subject. In the Farinas vs. Executive Secretary case, a legislation may contain any number of provisions, no matter how diverse they may be, so long as they are not inconsistent with or foreign to the general subject.

And we have further citations on what is the germane test. All provisions under CREATE relate to the CIT and incentives system. The reduction of the CIT, rationalization of fiscal incentives, governance of incentives system to the FIRB, and repeal of provisions under the charters of the IPAs are consistent with the provisions of the NIRC as amended, and are not different subject matters as all pertain to the taxation in the country.

Thus, the provisions bearing germane, auxiliary, incidental, and subsidiary to the NIRC as amended, CREATE does not violate the constitutional requirement that every bill shall embrace only one subject, which shall be expressed in the title thereof.

In Sumulong vs. Commission on Election, the constitutional requirement, as now expressed in Article 6, Section 26 (1) should be given a practical a rather than a technical construction. It should be in sufficient compliance with such a requirement if the title expresses the general subject and all the provisions are germane to that subject.

This is also repeated in other cases, Tobias vs. Abalos, citing Lidasan vs Comelec on the liberal construction of the one subject, one title rule.

We also took note of the opinion of the House of Representatives that quoted the same Farinas vs. Executive Secretary case, that we have mentioned already and was also quoted by three different departments of the Senate.


Sen. Pia: The fact that it is a revenue measure does not prevent us from tackling any other matter that is still related to the title of the bill and germane to the subject matter.


Sen. Pia: I did state that it is a revenue measure but that does not mean that it has to be a revenue measure only because there is no violation of the one subject, one bill rule here. That response was directed at the question to find out if there can be line vetoes from the executive. Knowing that that was the emphasis or direction of Senator Angara, that is the response that we gave. But in the context of his honor's question now, I will state that it is a revenue measure indeed, but it also includes in the incentives system, which we are rationalizing, that it is very clear in the title, which is germane to the subject... There is no intention to deceive the public or the legislators on the subject matter. And they all are consistent with the general subject.


Sen. Pia: The tourism industry remains incentivized. It is still in the SIPP. So there is no change there. A lot of aspects of tourism would be captured in the tiers.


Sen. Pia: My opinion is, because we do not distinguish, because we consider it a revenue measure, it could be done. But I am also asking if there is jurisprudence or if this has been studied in any manner...


Sen. Pia: The rationalization of incentives is actually not alien to the subject matter of the CIT. Because this addresses tax leakages and it is the reverse of increasing the tax, decreasing the tax. If his honor will recall, in the early part of our interpellation, we emphasized the fact that this is foregone revenues. Thus we need to rationalize because otherwise, these are tax revenues that are being exempted, not being collected, being given on a silver platter. Therefore, this is very germane to the topic of revenues. There is no separation in fact. It is not even an alien topic, as it may initially appear to his honor because they are covered by different codes. We have enough jurisprudence and opinions that also tell us that a bill may cover, may amend, may repeal various provisions of different laws and it is still germane to the subject matter.

I hope that adds a little bit of clarity, that when we speak of incentives, we are talking about foregone revenues, uncollected revenues because it was given as incentives, but they can also be viewed as exemptions, they are not being taxed. I said early on that the general rule is that every person engaged in business pays taxes. And yet, we provide exemptions to some, maybe because they come from a vulnerable sector, or we provide exemptions by way of giving incentives to others whom we want to attract. Therefore, it is not difficult for us to understand and defend that it is one subject matter that is intertwined with each other and can easily be justified as falling within, complying with the rule on only having one subject matter per bill.


Sen. Pia: I candidly explained in the beginning that I view the rationalization of incentives really as similar to tax exemptions... That is my understanding. I personally view it in that way. Because it's revenues that would otherwise be collected, if not for this law that provided for exemptions by way of incentives.

I do not contest his honor's statement that previous laws on incentives were not considered revenue measures... But the position I take is it definitely is justified as a revenue measure. I could argue that... This is something that I could personally argue because I believe that it is arguably a revenue measure, especially taken in the context that it is presented now, especially given that the objective is to look at the overall situation that Filipino taxpayers are in, and therefore we are decreasing all the CIT and then rationalizing what are given to a select few. It is logical for me to understand...

I liken it to TRAIN... From my knowledge, as there were changes made in the personal income tax, the levels were changed... At the same time, personal exemptions were removed. So, I viewed it in that way from the start when we accepted this task to become the chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. That is how I tried to understand it...

In yesterday's interpellation, I also told the Senate President Pro Tempore that I will listen very keenly to his ideas about the graduated income tax because precisely it is being offered to a person when they are sole proprietors and yet it is not being offered to them in their corporate capacity.

So, I am simply trying to lay the basis that your chair is truly trying to understand the different points of view and issues here. But also explaining where I come from in my own understanding of the CIT decrease and rationalization of tax incentives.

What is really our objective here is to propose a balance reform which is both essential to the policy of rationalization. For now, I would have to say that my position is I would prefer to keep this bill intact. However, like I always say, we can always discuss this with the body. I am just one. I do not have the liberty of defending a pet bill. This is a bill that I take on for the Senate because we all agree that there are steps we need to take... Definitely, this is one of those things that we need to discuss. Because the position I take as chair is I would prefer to keep it intact.


Sen. Pia: I have made my position clear. At this point, I believe we have a disagreement because the position I take as I said, I started the interpellation by saying tax incentives are technically tax exemptions. Therefore, they are revenue measures... I established that early on in the discussion...

The country is bleeding revenues that otherwise would be collected. Putting in the stopgap measures, which are basically this time-bound, targeted, performance-based incentive, is a revenue measure. And that is what I stand by... Those incentives are similar to, or if not actually tax exemptions, then they are revenue measures. For that reason, whether they were separated or not, that is the position I would be taking in the context of how I appreciated the bill from the time it was put in my lap.

I always have an open mind but where I am coming from at this point is simply that the lowering of the CIT was a decision that the economic team, led by DOF, was able to make, knowing that they will rationalize the incentives. And so with the drop of revenues, there will be an uptake on revenues over time... not immediately, as other investors make it appear. The earliest that they would even be affected would be 4 years from now.

If we were to look at the interpellation that the Senate President Pro Tempore started with on the first day, he showed a chart that showed the effect of the drop in CIT over 10 years, and aligned it with the increase in tax collection because of the rationalized incentives. So clearly, to my humble mind... those are both tax revenues. Because why would you even be comparing them if they are not tax revenue related?


Sen. Pia: We thank Sen. Angara for pointing out the various provisions that were amended or introduced in the TRAIN Law, including excise tax on sweetened beverages, petroleum products, etc. And then we provided for fuel marking, and required a tax incentive report. This is not an amendment to any incentive law but a requirement on incentive.

So I am just using this as an example to bolster my point that in my understanding of incentives, it is a tax exemption so it's very much related. We are giving up taxes, we are not asking them to pay the taxes. So it's very much related. It's the other side of the coin of charging taxes...

Under TRAIN, they changed personal and additional exemptions, similar to tax incentives. They were withdrawn. So I do not see how the lowering of the CIT and these provisions on incentives are not intertwined...

We have opinions from [three different Senate departments]. In one of those opinions, it says: "It may be argued that adding new sections to the NIRC on fiscal incentives in order to adopt a comprehensive approach in taxation of corporations will necessarily entail the amendment or repeal of numerous laws on these incentives. Even if the amendments or repeals of the laws are not expressed in the title of the measure, it is believed that they are all allied and germane to the purpose of the bill and are reasonable necessary for the accomplishment of the general objectives of the law, which is the reduction of CIT rates and rationalization of fiscal incentives. Simply put, the reduction of CIT rates and limitation or reduction in the grant of fiscal incentives, including the amendment or repeal of the laws which originally granted these incentives, are all related or germane to the general subject of taxation."

We have opinions that support that... This has been done. I can also mention other laws amended by TRAIN: the Philippine Sports Commission, PTV Charter, Postal Service Act, New Central Bank Act, HDMF Law, OWWA Act, Philippine Fisheries Code, Seed Industry Development Act, NGCP Law, etc.

I hope I have adequately explained my position that tax incentives affect tax revenues. Because you exempt them from paying taxes, and therefore it is very much related and I do not see any problem for these provisions to all be in one bill...


Sen. Pia: In terms of the jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means, Paragraph 5, Section 13, Rule 10 of the Senate Rules on Jurisdiction of the Committee says: "All matters relating to revenue, generally taxes and fees, tariffs, loans, and other sources and forms of revenues."

So unless we will now say that our Committee on Rules made a mistake in the referral to the Committee on Ways and Means, the fact that it was referred here as it is, substantiates that initial position, which is then further substantiated by the opinions that we obtained specific to CREATE and consistent with jurisprudence on the Philippines that these subject matters on lowering of CIT and rationalization of incentives as I said, is tantamount to a revenue measure. It is a revenue measure because rationalizing incentives will either bring you more revenues or lose your revenues... It is not wrong to bring it to the Committee on Ways and Means and have it in one bill.


Sen. Pia: When you grant a tax incentive, you are taking away that entity's duty to pay the tax... Therefore, in my humble mind, it makes logical sense that it is. Because it will either reduce the revenue collections of the country or increase it. And that is what we are talking about at this time. It is much needed revenue. And that is why it is included in the package.


Sen. Pia: We stand by the position that it is a revenue measure... Granting of incentives reduces the revenue collection, therefore, it affects revenue. Therefore, it is a revenue measure. Taken separately, I do not question that it will go to a different committee. But as it is, it is properly in the Committee on Ways and Means and properly in the same bill that is before us right now.

Under the Constitution, the President has the ability and power. I am not granting him any more powers that are already granted in the Constitution.


Sen. Pia: The objective of CREATE is definitely to capture all IPAs, even those that will be created in the future. Otherwise, then we do not achieve our goal of rationalizing the grant of incentives. If these IPAs will come up with their own, then this will be a failure and I submit to the body how we intend to go about it if there are contrary views. Because really, the objective is that all IPAs would be captured by this CREATE bill.


Sen. Pia: We have principles of statutory construction. A special law has more weight over a general law; that the latest rule would also govern; and we also have a principle of harmonization. Our objective is to harmonize... I am stating the objective, which is for the IPAs to be covered by this rule, so of course, if there will be a future legislation wherein we say it will not be covered, then it will not be covered. Because the latest legislation would govern. But I can still state that principle because it is intended to be the principle... Unless there is a serious reason to exempt it, then the general rule is for them to be part of this whole system so we can rationalize incentives.


Sen. Pia: Except for our Constitution, any law here can be amended. I think we have sufficient laws passed in the history of the Philippines that are intended to be the general laws, and then there would be subsequent laws that unless there are specific provisions repealing or amending the general law, then that general law would still be the governing law...

I am spreading into the record that this is meant to be the general law governing IPAs and for future IPAs, the intention is for them to be governed by this law unless we carve out something else for them. That is the sole prerogative of Congress. If they want to carve something out, they can...


Sen. Pia: That is the policy that this bill is really intending to create... If there is a future bill that we intend not to be included, then we should specifically carve it out. Because the objective is that this will govern all the IPAs. Anything that will be carved out, that should be carved out in the future to prevent confusion.


Sen. Pia: Let's be candid about this. Every legislator who would want to push for a measure would try to push for the best provisions they would want to put in there... Being the author and sponsor of this measure, it would be my duty to be the guard, to police provisions. Because the objective is wala naman lamangan. Just because matagal na pinasa ang ibang IPAs, they would be governed by less favorable terms, that is not meant to be the objective. Therefore, I have to be clear that this is the governing law. That is why we cannot accept that kind of amendment... Otherwise, we would be bound by statutory construction provisions...


Sen. Pia: This is not intended to be a disadvantage to those that are existing now. All I am saying is the reverse of what his honor is saying... If the body intends to carve out an IPA in the future, then carve it out, but the law should be clear that this is meant to govern all IPAs. If we pass later on a new one that we want to carve out, that is the one we should carve out.


Sen. Pia: The very first question his honor asked, is if it is the intention for this not to be repealable. I already stated the answer, and I said of course not... That is not what I have been saying. If we are very amenable to changing the language that says subject to amendments made in other laws, whatever. We are open. I am always open, but I am establishing the fact that this is the general law. And unless an IPA is carved out, let's not be confused, let us be assured that it is clear that this is the general law.


Sen. Pia: There is no intention to make this unrepealable. It is just meant to be repealable until otherwise repealed or clearly amended... Unless otherwise amended or repealed, this is the governing law. By all means, if any Congress, even this very Congress, can repeal it the very next day, if that is the intention... I am simply saying that the principle of equality also requires that in general, all IPAs will be governed by this law...


Sen. Pia: I want to make clear that this is the prevailing law, and if there is an intention to repeal it, then it should be stated in the next law so there is no confusion... His honor does not want to put that burden on the future laws, which I feel will lessen all the uncertainties if that simple provision would be put there, which is what we are trying to do here in the CREATE bill... It's a tedious process, but that is required if you have a bill of this magnitude.


Sen. Pia: It is our view that because the IPAs have already been exercising this function and the FIRB will simply approve or disapprove based on the recommendation made by that IPA, then it was our position that that could still be delegated precisely because of the concern of many IPAs that were brought to our attention that they have already been performing this function and they are equipped and able to do so. So really, the objective here was really for FIRB to give that official sign off because of their need to ensure that the investors are compliant...


Sen. Pia: We are aware of the need to comply with valid delegation. And the law does provide for the standards, based on the Supreme Court rulings that the job to be done must be described, who would execute it in the scope of that authority. And therefore, we have included specific wording in the bill that would address this: "Taking into consideration factors such as, but not limited to, level or location of investment, type of activity, and fiscal risk."

This is the provision that says that the FIRB may delegate the grant of tax incentives to the technical committee or the investment promotion agencies. We identified who will it be delegated to and what is going to be delegated...


Sen. Pia: I simply ask for consideration. My staff was exposed. We all had to take a test. Thanks to the imposition of the Senate medical that we take a test to check. Everybody will go home, we get exposed again to a certain extent. As you can see, despite our best efforts, we have to share notes, we have to look... I am talking about the health of these people. Unfortunately, I am also incapable of doing it without staff support. The various agencies are with us, we tried to be safe by putting an acrylic barrier... That's why I appealed to all for consideration. Because every time we step out, there is some degree of exposure... And then we will go back on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Again it is not my intention to rush anyone, we are here in the Senate. The Senate President is so kindly patiently waiting. But if there is any way we can try to move it forward, I know that many of you will be submitting amendments. I don't expect it to be easy. I take on this task gladly. But I ask for consideration because we also are on timelines, COVID aside, exposure aside, we agreed that we would finish this next week. I am worried that to start the period of [amendments] on Tuesday, I do not know if I can give you a clean copy on Wednesday. How would we pass it then, dear colleagues?

I leave it up to you. If you tell me we do not pass it, I do my job by making myself available. I am just standing by what I thought that we agreed we would try to finish this today...


Sen. Pia: I was kindly asking for consideration given that we are working in the time of COVID, we are constantly exposed. I am worried that we would be rushing these amendments. You know me, I will try to give in to those amendments. We will be in close contact every minute despite our best efforts. And so I wanted more time, I wanted to be able to look at the amendments this weekend... So that we can have a clean copy by Tuesday. It's a very thick copy, Mr. President. How do we pass it if all of our colleagues will ask for a clean copy on Wednesday? And we are not ready with it. I am just being practical.

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