Press Release
February 8, 2014

Drilon: Congress to push for priority economic bills on attracting investments, ensuring economic integrity

The 16th Congress is set to work on ways to streamline numerous tax incentives for businesses and tighten consumer protection as part of its legislative package that is geared towards encouraging investors, scaling up the business climate, enhancing market competition, and creating job opportunities, among others, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said.

Drilon, who met with House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to firm up the legislative agenda, said emphasis would be given to economic measures that "will maximize the country's potential business strengths, and ensure the nation's macroeconomic and fiscal sustainability and enhance the overall Philippine climate for greater business competition and foreign investments."

"More investments can translate to the provision of more jobs and economic opportunities for our citizenry which is our concern here," he stressed.

Up for discussion in Congress are measures calling for a Consolidated Investments and Incentives Code of the Philippines, and a bill proposing the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act.

"There is a need to reassess and harmonize our numerous fiscal and non-fiscal incentives and subsidies to foreign and local investors to avoid overlapping and redundant incentives to cut unnecessary revenue loss," explained Drilon.

If approved, such bills will enable better handling of the country's fiscal incentives for its investors, thus ensuring a business-friendly environment, which maintains the effective flow of appropriate taxes into public coffers- to everyone's benefit, he noted.

Similarly, Congress is expected to deal with measures that will amend existing tax laws on mining activities in the country: "There is a need to study the practice of mining-intensive countries where higher excise taxes have not dissuaded investments at all, while making funding for government projects bigger."

The country's legislators will also address loopholes in the Built-Operate-Transfer law, Cabotage law, and EPIRA.

"There is a need to fine tune the BOT law to close some policy gaps and make them aligned with the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, in order to encourage the exploration of more effective forms of PPP projects, to allow healthier competition, and to fix interconnectivity issues," Drilon explained.

"Similarly, we must amend the Cabotage law to allow foreign-registered vessels to engage in coastwide trade in the country, thereby opening the market to competition, bringing down transportation costs by sea, and enabling the country to fully utilize supply chain products," he further said.

"Also of importance is the amendment to the EPIRA to find ways to address the woes of our people with regard to the high electricity rates, which the EPIRA was supposed to address," the Senate chief stressed.

Government institutions related to finance and the economy are also in the line for massive reforms - bills filed in the current Congress propose amendments of BSP to solidify its supervisory and regulatory powers, while more than one priority bill has gunned for the systemic overhaul of the Bureau of Customs.

"We are looking at restructuring important institutions to halt the economic damage from rampant money laundering, smuggling and other financial crimes in the country," said the senator.

However, the Senate leader said that they "have not forgotten our overarching goal of making the economic growth we aspire for to be inclusive of most possible socio-economic sectors."

He then pointed to measures in the priority list calling for a Consumer Protection Act, an Anti-Trust Act, and the promotion of micro, small and medium enterprises as development institutions across the country.

"We have to remember that economic progress is only good if it leads to improved social and economic conditions for the citizenry. We have made sure that while we are striving for policies that focus on long-term macroeconomic gains, there even stronger efforts to uplift depressed sectors, and uphold the financial interests of the everyday Filipino," Drilon concluded.

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