By Jovie Marie de la Cruz, January 1 2018; Business Mirror
Image Credit to House of Representatives
Leaders of the House of Representatives vowed to pass early this year all pending measures that would help promote the Philippines as a business-friendly economy.
The top priorities include the ease of doing business bill, “Part B” of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), the measure seeking to abolish quantitative restriction (QR) on rice and the bill seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution.
The lower chamber is seen focusing on its legislative priorities despite the hearings on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno.
House Committee on Trade and Industry Chairman Ferjenel Biron of the Fourth District of Iloilo said the congressional bicameral conference committee tackling the proposal seeking to establish a national policy on ease of doing business will consolidate the Senate and House versions when session resumes on January 15.
Biron said the measure is needed to simplify issuances of licenses, clearances or permits to business entities. Earlier, the World Bank released its “Ease of Doing Business Report 2018,” which showed the country’s ranking at 113th, from 99th in the 2017 edition.
“The purpose of this bill is to provide an easy, simple, straightforward and trouble-free avenue for entrepreneurs, micro, small and medium businesses and ordinary citizens who would like to venture into business in the country,” Biron said.
Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr. of the Second District of Camarines Sur, one of the authors of the bill, said the Philippines ranked as the second-most favored destination for foreign direct investments in Southeast Asia.
However, Villafuerte said the Philippines’s rank in ease of doing business is one of the lowest in the world in 2017, at 171st, out of 185 countries. The House version of the bill aims to provide a business environment that is conducive for the establishment and operation of enterprises in the country.
The measure also intends to promote transparency in the government with regard to business registration and other manner of public transactions, to reduce red tape and expedite permitting, licensing and other similar transactions in the government.
It seeks to ensure timely and expeditious processing of business requirements by national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs).
The bill calls for the creation of the National Policy in the Ease of Doing Business, which is a comprehensive and regulatory management policy to improve competitiveness and ease undue bureaucratic and regulatory burden to business entities.
It also provides for the creation of the Ease of Doing Business Commission, an attached agency of the Office of the President, which shall be the policy-making body on business registration and regulatory management and shall set the overall direction for the implementation of the National Policy on Ease of Doing Business.
It mandates further that the prescribed processing time shall in no case be longer than one working day for barangay governments.
For NGAs and LGUs approving a simple application, the prescribed processing time shall be three working days while, for national government agencies and LGUs in case of complex applications, the prescribed processing time shall be 10 working days from the time of receipt of the application.
For special types of businesses that require clearances, accreditation, or licenses issued by government agencies, including regulatory agencies as provided for by law, where technical evaluation or such necessary condition is required in the processing of license, clearances or permits, the prescribed processing time shall in no case be longer than 30 working days or as determined by the government agency or instrumentality concerned, whichever is shorter.
Rep. Dakila Carlo E. Cua of the Lone District of Quirino, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said Congress will pass in the first quarter of 2018 Part B of Package 1 of the TRAIN.
Cua said Part B of Package 1 will focus on the amnesty package, which include the estate tax amnesty and a general tax amnesty.
The proposed adjustments in the Motor Vehicle Users Charge and amendments to the bank secrecy law and automatic exchange of information are also included in the Part B of Package 1 of TRAIN.
Currently, there are separate pending bills in the lower chamber seeking for estate tax amnesty, a general tax amnesty and amendments to the bank secrecy law. The Part A of the TRAIN Act, which is the first of five tax packages of the Duterte administration, is targeting to raise P130 billion in revenues to finance the administration’s infrastructure program.
House Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairman Jose T. Panganiban Jr. of Anac-IP said lawmakers will also start discussing the measure scrapping the rice QR and converting it into tariffs at the plenary early this year. The passage of the bill allowing the tariffication of rice is included in the priority bills identified as urgent by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.
The House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Agriculture and Food have already endorsed the measure for plenary approval before Congress went on a Christmas break.
The House Committee on Agriculture and Food has set the bound tariff rate for rice imports outside the minimum access volume (MAV) at 180 percent.
Under the bill, the Philippines will impose a bound tariff rate of 35 percent for rice originating from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regardless of its volume. Manila would also impose a 40-percent bound tariff most-favored nation rate for in-quota rice imports from countries outside the Asean.
Once the substitute bill is enacted into law, the country’s MAV for rice shall revert to its 2012 level at 350,000 metric tons (MT), from the current 805,000 MT.
The Philippines is under pressure to convert its QR on rice into ordinary Customs duties after its waiver on the special treatment on rice expired on June 30. The World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council approved the waiver, which allowed Manila to keep its rice QR until June 30, on the condition that the Philippines will subject its rice imports to ordinary Customs duties by July 1.
In March the Philippines informed WTO members that it is facing delays in converting the QR because it has not amended RA 8178, which imposed the import caps on rice indefinitely. As a sign of “goodwill” to its trading partners, President Duterte signed Executive Order 23 in July to extend the concessions made by the Philippines in securing the waiver in 2014.
Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said Congress will convene into a constituent assembly in 2018 to craft a new constitution that would pave the way for the shift to a federal form of government, in line with one of the President’s campaign promises.
Alvarez said leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed to meet to lay down their timetable and determine the best time for Congress to convene into a constituent assembly (Con-ass) for the purpose of drafting a new federal constitution.
The House committee on constitutional amendments has created four technical working groups (TWGs), which will draft the Philippine Federal Constitution.
The PDP Federalism Institute also turned over to the committee the draft “Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines,” for consideration by the various TWGs created by the House panel.
Rep. Roger G. Mercado of the Lone District of Southern Leyte, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Reforms, has called for the swift adoption of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 9 convening Congress into a constituent assembly. The HCR 9, consolidates 29 various bills and resolutions calling for the immediate revision of the 1987 Constitution.
Mercado said the high public trust ratings of Duterte is a strong reason to push for the proposal.
“We have conducted nine hearings and four public consultations nationwide, which showed that there is a need to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution,” Mercado added. He said Con-ass is the most practical, least expensive and fastest mode of amending the Constitution.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas Sr. of Ilocos Norte said a total of 8,528 bills have been filed since the 17th Congress opened in July 2016, with the figure representing 6,911 House Bills (HB) and 1,617 House Resolutions (HR).
Fariñas said the House processed a total of 2,100 measures in the past 145 session days of the First Regular Session and since its opening for the Second Regular Session of the 17th Congress, or an average of 14 measures processed per day.
As of December 14, 2017, he said there were 39 measures enacted into law, which include:
■ The 2018 General Appropriations Act.
■ The “Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion” bill.
■ HB 5670,“An Act Strengthening Assistance To All Farmers By Providing Free Irrigation Service Fee And All Other Similar Or Related Fees Or Charges.”
■ HB 4863, “An Act Strengthening The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation And Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) By Restoring Its Authority To Issue Subpoena Ad Testificandum Or Subpoena Duces Tecum.”
■ “An Act Declaring December 8 Of Every Year A Special Non-Working Holiday In The Entire Country To Commemorate The Feast Of The Immaculate Conception Of Mary, The Principal Patroness Of The Philippines.”
Meanwhile, measures that are still pending in the bicameral committee are:
■ HB 684, “An Act Amending Republic Act 53, As Amended, Otherwise Known As ‘An Act To Exempt The Publisher, Editor Or Reporter Of Any Publication From Revealing The Source Of Published News Or Information Obtained In Confidence’ “By Including Within Its Coverage Journalists From Broadcast, News Agencies And Internet Publications.”
■ HB 6452, “An Act Establishing A National Mental Health Policy For The Purpose Of Enhancing The Delivery Of Integrated Mental Health Services, Promoting And Protecting The Rights Of Persons Utilizing Psychiatric, Neurologic And Psychosocial Health Services And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
Meanwhile, for enrollment is HB 6016, “Act Regulating The Issuance, Use And Redemption Of Gift Checks, Gift Certificates And Gift Cards.” The House also adopted Senate Bill 209, “An Act Declaring The Twenty-Fifth Day Of August Of Every Year As The National Tech-Voc Day.”
Other major accomplishments of the House include the approval on third and final reading of 354 bills; adoption of 100 resolutions, including those calling for motu proprio inquiry; consolidation/substitution of 1,017 measures; and referral of 549 resolution on inquiries.
The lower chamber has adopted several resolutions, which include HR 1050, expressing full support for the President for declaring martial law in Mindanao; Resolutions on Impeachment, HR 1015 dismissing the impeachment complaint against Duterte and HR 1397 dismissing the impeachment complaint filed by Jacinto Paras and Ferdinand Topacio against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres D. Bautista; Resolutions of Both House 11 extending martial law in Mindanao or Proclamation 216 until December 2018.
Among the bills and resolutions approved by the House on third reading, and awaiting Senate action, are:
■ HB 5811, “Act Providing For A Magna Carta Of The Poor.”
■ HB 691, “An Act Simplifying The Procedure In The Disposition Of Public Agricultural Lands.”
■ HB 5750, “An Act Defining The Offenses Of Discharge Of Firearms And Indiscriminate Firing Of Firearms And Providing Stiffer Penalties Therefor.”
■ HB 5792, “Institutionalizing The Balik Scientist Program And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
■ HB 5818 “An Act Regulating The Practice Of Employers In Posting Notices Of Termination Of Employment Of Former Employees In Newspapers, Social Media And Other Public Information Venues.”
■ HB 6024 , “An Act Recognizing The Observance Of July 25 Of Every Year As The National Campus Press Freedom Day.”
■ HB 6152, “An Act Increasing The Normal Work Hours Per Day Under A Compressed Work
■ HB 5675, “An Act Allowing The Rectification Of Simulated Birth Records And Prescribing Administrative Adoption Proceedings For The Purpose.”
■ HB 6112, “Act Mandating The Installation Of Safety Monitoring Devices In Public Utility Vehicles And Providing Penalties For Violation Thereof.”
■ HB 5784, HB 5784, “An Act Providing Universal Health Care For All Filipinos And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
■ HB 5828, “An Act Providing For The Definition Of Public Utility, Further Amending For The Purpose Commonwealth Act 146, Otherwise Known As The Public Service Act, As Amended.”
■ HB 6221, “An Act Establishing The Filipino Identification System.”
■ HB 6177, “An Act Rationalizing The Income Requirements For The Creation Of A Municipality, The Declaration Of Highly Urbanized Status In The Case Of Component Cities And The Creation Of A Province.”
■ HB 6283, “An Act Recognizing The Observance Of November 17 Of Every Year As National Students’ Day.”
■ HB 4982, “An Act Prohibiting Discrimination On The Basis Of Sexual Orientation Or Gender Identity Or Expression And Providing Penalties Therefor.”
■ HB 5747, “An Act Establishing The Coconut Farmers And Industry Development Trust Fund And Providing For Its Management And Utilization.”
■ HB 6276, “An Act Ensuring The Continuous And Uninterrupted Transmission And Distribution Of Electricity, The Protection Of The Integrity And Reliability Of The Transmission And Distribution Systems, And The Promotion Of Public Safety, And Providing Penalties In Violation Thereof.”
■ HB 5777, “An Act Strengthening The National And Local Health And Nutrition Programs For Pregnant And Lactating Women, Adolescent Girls Of Reproductive Age And Teen-Age Mothers, Infants And Young Children In The First 1,000 Days, And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
■ HB 5799, “An Act Reverting Fish Ponds Which Have Been Unutilized Or Abandoned For A Period Of Three Years To Forest Lands.”
■ HB 1530, “An Act Requiring Government Agencies To Indicate The Blood Type Of Individuals In The Identification Cards, Certificates And Licenses.”
■ HB 6396, “An Act Instituting Policies For The Protection And Welfare Of Caregivers In The Practice Of Their Profession.”
■ HB 6571, “An Act Establishing A Medical Scholarship And Return Service Program For Deserving Students And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
■ HB 6589, “An Act Rationalizing The Requirements Imposed By The Department Of Agrarian Reform Regarding Land Registration To Facilitate Speed And Efficiency In Land Registration.”
■ HB 6590, ”An Act Amending Section 13 Of Republic Act No. 3019, As Amended, Entitled The ‘Anti-Graft And Corrupt Practices Act.”
■ HB 6578, “An Act Establishing A Retirement Benefit System In The Office Of The Ombudsman, Augmenting Its Employee Benefits, And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
■ HB 159, “An Act Strengthening The Right Of Government To Expropriate Lands For Socialized Housing.”
■ HB 6550, “An Act Instituting The Magna Carta Of Day Care Workers And Providing Funds Therefor.”
■ HB 6557, “An Act Promoting Open Access In Data Transmission, Providing Additional Powers To The National Telecommunications Commission.”
■ HB 6558, “An Act Strengthening The Powers Of The National Telecommunications Commission, Amending For The Purpose Republic Act 7925, Otherwise Known As The Public Telecommunications Policy Act Of The Philippines.”
■ HB 6572, “An Act Institutionalizing The Philippine Qualifications Framewor, Establishing The National Coordinating Council And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
■ HB 1616, “An Act Exempting The System Loss Charge Component In The Sale Of Electricity By Distribution Companies And Electric Cooperatives From The Coverage Of The Value Added Tax.”
■HB 6570, “An Act Prohibiting Leaving Children Below Eight Years Old Unattended In Motor Vehicles.”
■ HB 6617, “Act Strengthening The Philippine Comprehensive Policy On Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) And Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome [Aids] Prevention, Treatment, Care And Support, And Establishing The Philippine National HIV And Aids Plan”.
■ HB 6604, “An Act Regulating The Rates Of Political Propaganda On Television, Radio And Print During An Electoral Campaign Period.”
■ HB 6702, “An Act Regulating The Importation, Manufacture, Distribution And Sale Of Children’s Products Containing Hazardous Chemicals, And Providing Penalties For Violation Thereof.”
■ HB 6714, “An Act Regulating The Practice Of Food Technology In The Philippines, Creating For The Purpose The Board Of Food Technology, And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
■ HB 3222, “An Act Establishing A National Vision Screening Program For Kindergarten Pupils And Appropriating Funds Therefor.”
■ House Joint Resolution 18, “Joint Resolution Authorizing The Increase In Base Pay Of Military And Uniformed Personnel In The Government, And For Other Purposes.”