By Cai Ordinario, May 23 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

The pending proposal to strengthen the country’s socioeconomic planning office, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), is facing an uphill battle in Congress due to time constraints.

At a news briefing on Wednesday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said, however, that Rep. Jose S. Salceda of the Second District of Albay has assured him that the Lower  House will tackle the bill next week.

Salceda is the primary author of the bill in the House, while Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is the author of a counterpart measure in the Senate.

“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen because the time is rather tight,” Pernia said. “It’s not as close as we had wanted it to be by this time.”

Pernia said the bill was a “spontaneous initiative” of Gatchalian, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.

Nonetheless, Pernia said, the bill augurs well with the Neda’s aim to strengthen its capacity to become a truly independent economic  planning agency.

The proposed law seeks to address fragmented, uncoordinated, and even often interrupted planning, policy-making, programming, and budgeting process of the government.

Pernia said that through the bill, there will be continuity of plans, programs, and policies that should outlive a President’s term for them to become effective.

“Through the Neda bill, the independent economic and development planning body we envision would be one that directs and integrates development plans at the national and subnational levels,” Pernia said in a speech at the Planning Community of Practice (PCoP) 2nd Technical Workshop on Wednesday.

The workshop, Pernia said, is a major a milestone that aims to strengthen national development planning and policy-making across Southeast Asia.

The PCoP is a venue for state planners and policy-makers to discuss ways to address issues brought about by the economic and political landscape.

The workshop on Wednesday was intended to explore decentralization, which is the reason for the inclusion of the Neda’s regional offices nationwide in the PCoP.

“It sheds light on the crucial role of national and subnational planning and the mechanism at two levels in effectively implementing various development programs and projects at the local and at the grassroots level,” Pernia said.

In a statement delivered to the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs last year, the socioeconomic planning chief said it is throwing its support behind Senate Bill  1938 titled “The Neda Act of 2018” authored by Gatchalian.

Pernia said the proposed Neda Act will strengthen the oversight agency and improve its capacity to implement economic and development policies.

Pernia said the passage of the Neda Act is long overdue given that the oversight agency was created through the 1987 Philippine Constitution and Executive Order 230, dated July 22, 1987, during the term of former President Corazon Aquino.

While the 1987 Constitution resolved to create an “independent economic and planning agency,” Pernia said no enabling law has yet been passed to exercise this function, which led to fragmented and uncoordinated policy-making.

As a consequence, Pernia said, a number of the country’s plans, programs, and policies have been delayed, discontinued and/or neglected, preventing the attainment of long-term goals.