House and business leaders agree on legislative priorities

The House of Representatives and the Joint Foreign Chambers and
Philippine Business Groups on Tuesday agreed to pursue a common list
of legislative priorities focusing on accountability, and transparency
promoting the sustained war against poverty.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for strengthening our bonds of
cooperation and solidarity toward the attainment of our common
aspirations for further growth,” Belmonte told the leaders of foreign
and Philippine business groups led by Mr. Hubert D’Aboville, president
of the European Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Aurelio Montinola, Jr.,
President, Banker’s Association of the Philippines, among others.

The priorities focus mainly on economic and governance legislation,
aside from other vital matters, including legislative support to the
recently launched “Integrity Initiative United Code of Conduct,” an
anti-corruption movement in the private sector being pushed by a
consortium of 21 groups and associations that includes the Makati
Business Club.

Belmonte also stressed that the Philippine Development Plan targets
the following for the next six years: reduction of poverty incidence
by half to 16.6 percent in 2015; employment creation of one million
jobs a year; a GDP growth rate of 7 to 8 percent a year; increase in
the investment-to-GDP ration from 15.6 percent in 2010 to 22 percent
in 2016; and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Many measures included in the common priority list are also included
in the House and Senate common priorities and President Aquino’s
legislative agenda.

Among those whom Speaker Belmonte and other House leaders met in an
open dialogue were:  Mr. Philip Soliven (Vice Pres.- American Chamber
of Commerce; Mr. Danilo Sebastian Reyes (Vice  Chair – Business
Processing Association of the Philippines); Mr. Edgardo Lacson
(Pres.-Employers Confederation of the Philippines); Mr. Nobou Fujii
(Vice Pres. – Japanese Chamber of Commerce); and Julian Payne
(Pres.-Canadian Chamber of Commerce).

The House leaders who also took an active part in the open dialogue
were: Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia; Deputy Speaker Ma. Isabelle
Climaco; Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez II; and committee chairmen
Joseph Emilio Abaya (Appropriations); Sigfrid Tinga (Committee on
ICT); Albert Garcia (Trade and Industry); Hermilando Mandanas (Ways
and Means); Loreto Leo Ocampos (Constitutional Amendments); Ben
Evardone (Public Information); Ronald Cosalan (Public Works); Erico
Basilo Fabian (Government Enterprises); Emil Ong (labor & Employment);
and Danilo Fernandez (Ecology), as well as Sec. Gen. Marilyn Barua-Yap
of the House Secretariat, among others.

The identified priorities, some of them passed by the House and
transmitted to the Senate for action, included the following: 1) Data
Privacy Act (Approved on 3rd reading); 2) Rationalization of  Fiscal
Incentives (Approved on 3rd reading); 3) Customs Modernization and
Tariffs Act ( Approved on 3rd reading); 4) Direct Remittance to LGUs
of their 40% share from National Wealth Taxes (Approved on 3rd
reading); 5) Fair Competition or Anti-Trust (Approved on 2nd reading);

6) Amendments to the BOT or PPP Law (TWG substitute bill being
drafted); 7) Exemption from Common Carrier’s Tax/Gross Philippine
Billing (for 2nd reading); 8) Clean Air Act Amendment (Committee
deliberation); 9) Retail Trade Act Amendments (no bill filed yet); 10)
Financial Sector Tax Neutrality Act (no bill filed yet); 11)
Amendments to certain (economic) provisions of the Constitution (under
committee deliberation); 12) Enhancing the Curriculum of Basic
Education (committee); 12) Land Administration and Reform (committee);

13) Anti-Smuggling (for report preparation by the Committee on Ways
and Means); 14) Excise Taxes on Tobacco and Alcohol (committee); 15)
Creative Industries Act (no bill filed yet); 16) Cybercrime Prevention
Act (committee report for filing); 17) Rationalization of Non-working
Holidays (committee); 18) Security of Tenure (approved at committee
level; awaiting plenary schedule); 19) Mining Act Amendments
(committee); 20) Authorizing LGUs to issue small and large scale
mining permits (for TWG study);

21) Intellectual; Property Rights Act Amendments (Approved on 3rd
reading); 22) Lemon Law (Approved on 3rd reading); Plastic Bag
Regulation Act (Approved on 3rd reading); 23) AMLA Amendments
(Approved on 2nd reading); 24) Creation of the Department of
Information and Communications Technology (Approved on 2nd reading);
25) Whistle Blowers Protection Act (committee report for filing); 26)
BSP Charter Amendments (committee); 27) Freedom of Access to
Information (committee); and 28) Philippine Immigration Code
(Committee and TWG).

The prevailing uncertainty in the global economic outlook, Belmonte
stressed, should not dampen everyone’s aspirations. “Instead, it
should serve as both challenge and motivation for us to work harder.”

The House leader, quoting one Chinese proverb, said: “A crisis is an
opportunity riding the dangerous wind.” And indeed, for every crisis,
there is always an opportunity, Belmonte said.

The House leader noted that public trust and confidence in all
branches of government have improved.  “However, these positive
developments should provide no room for complacency.  There remain
vital weaknesses in our economy that immediately need to be
addressed,” Belmonte concluded.

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