By Charmaine A. Tadalan, August 6 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Reuters

THE LEGISLATIVE-EXECUTIVE Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) will hold quarterly meetings to ensure smooth action on priority measures, Senate leaders said after the body’s organizational meeting on Monday.

A preparatory meeting will be held on Aug. 27 to “merge” the legislative agenda of both chambers of Congress.

Ang napagusapan ay ‘yung (We discussed the) organizational schedule ng ‘small’ LEDAC and main LEDAC,” Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III told reporters in a briefing.

“It is scheduled once every quarter. The ‘small’ LEDAC is now scheduled every last Monday of the month.”

The LEDAC held its last meeting in September 2017, according to its Web site.

The Senate and House of Representatives were represented at Monday’s meeting respectively by Mr. Sotto and Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano, while the Executive branch was represented by Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Budget Acting Secretary Janet B. Abuel, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Secretary Adelino B. Sitoy.

The council, as provided by Republic Act No. 7640, is chaired by the President and includes among its members the Vice-President, the Speaker, seven Cabinet members designated by the President, three senators designated by the Senate President, three members of the House designated by the Speaker, as well as a representative each from local government, the youth and the private sectors.

The “small” LEDAC, meanwhile, will be composed of:

• Mr. Sotto, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon and Finance committee chair Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, on the part of the Senate;

• Mr. Cayetano (Taguig City-1st district), Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte (Camarines Sur-2nd district), Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez (Leyte-1stdistrict), Minority Leader Bienvenido M. Abante Jr. (Manila-6th district), Appropriations committee chairman Isidro T. Ungab (Davao City-3rd district) and Ways and Means chairman Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda (Albay-2nd district) on the part of the House.

“And then the Executive Secretary will always be there, will always be present… unlike the previous ‘small’ LEDACs before — ‘mini’ LEDACs they used to call it in the previous administration, ang Malacañang bihirang magpadala ng (seldom sent) representatives eh,” Mr. Sotto said.

The first ‘small’ LEDAC meeting will be on Aug. 27, during which Mr. Sotto said both chambers will harmonize their lists of priorities. “Come Aug. 27, we’ll be able to merge them together,” he said.

Mr. Zubiri explained that the frequent, regular meetings should help ensure that priority measures approved by Congress will not be vetoed by the President. “Idi-discuss natin ‘yung mga (We will discuss) measures that could possibly have stumbling blocks or serious reservations of the different departments.”

He added that departments should give their comments on bills at the committee level, and not after a bicameral conference committee harmonizes versions after final approval by the House and the Senate.

The Senate also on Monday afternoon conducted an all-member caucus to discuss each senator’s preferred measures to determine the chamber’s legislative agenda for the first regular session of the 18th Congress.

Mr. Salceda, in a briefing at the House, said the chamber’s priorities will be led by, besides the 2020 national budget, the proposed increase in excise tax on alcohol products, amendments to the 82-year-old Commonwealth Act No. 146, or the Public Service Act, establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentive Rationalization Act, and establishment of Malasakit Centers.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, in his fourth State of the Nation Address on July 22, urged Congress to reimpose the death penalty for certain crimes, revive mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps. training, approve remaining tax reform packages, as well as establish the departments on water management, disaster resilience and OFW.

Fourteen local and foreign business groups on July 30 released a list of legislative measures which they submitted to the Office of the President and both houses of Congress, beginning with the PSA Amendments, which will remove restrictions on foreign ownership in utilities; and the proposed reduction of corporate income tax and streamline fiscal incentives.

The groups also identified the amendments to the RA 7042, or the Foreign Investments Act of 1991, which will remove restrictions on foreigners from practicing their profession in the Philippines; and to RA 8762, or the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000, which will reduce the required minimum paid-up capital for foreign entrants to the country’s retail sector, among their priorities.