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Legislators call for more stimulus with private sector gun-shy on investment

LEGISLATORS said Thursday that more stimulus is needed to help the economy recover from the pandemic, adding that only the government is capable of providing this boost with the private sector still reluctant to invest.

“The private sector will not be investing so much, I suppose next year, while you still have this uncertainty, it’s the job of the government,” Senator Ralph G. Recto said at the 9th Arangkada Philippines Forum 2020.

“That’s why I support all the stimulus measures from the House including a Bayanihan III, of additional spending of 1-2% of GDP.”

He was referring to the third round of Bayanihan stimulus measures, following the Bayanihan to Heal as One law (Bayanihan I) enacted early in the pandemic and the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan II) months later.

AAMBIS-OWA Representative Sharon S. Garin, who chairs the House economic affairs committee, has filed a third Bayanihan bill calling for a P247-billion package, while Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo proposed to inject up to P400 billion.

Ms. Quimbo said treasury records show that the government has over a trillion pesos in undisbursed cash from the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget, which may be tapped as a source of stimulus funds.

“When Congress passed (the ARISE stimulus bill in June), I think within 24 hours, the executive said it was unfundable. At that point… perhaps that was a reasonable decision given that there was so much uncertainty,” she said at the same forum.

“But fast forward to today, knowing they have so much undisbursed funds… I think there is hope for some more aggressive spending behavior. Besides that’s the clamor of many sectors.”

Mr. Recto said the leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives will meet in January to discuss the Congressional agenda over the remaining 18 months of the current government.

He said the Senate is open to measures that will ease the entry of foreign investors in retail as well as lower the minimum employment requirement to 15 from 50 for small enterprises with paid-in capital of at least $100,000.

Meanwhile, Mr. Recto said the proposal to amend the Public Service Act (PSA), or Commonwealth Act No. 146, is “a bit ticklish.”

“PSA, a bit ticklish because there are constitutional provisions that we’re looking at. Like telecommunications, is that a public utility or not? Would it still require a franchise?” he said, also noting cybersecurity concerns in opening up the industry to foreign investors. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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