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Senate to prioritize bill vs terror, retail trade liberalization

MEASURES strengthening the country’s law against money laundering and opening up the economy to more foreign investments are among the 20 priority bills the Senate will seek to pass before it adjourns in June, according to its top leader.

Senators would try to approve changes to the Anti-Money Laundering Act and Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000, according to a list sent by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III in a Viber group.

Senate Bill 1945 will strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) giving it the power to apply for a search warrant and implement targeted financial sanctions on proliferation financing.

It will also include property developers and brokers, as well as Philippine offshore gaming operators and service providers as covered persons and entities.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1840 will lower the minimum paid-up capital requirement for foreign retail investors to $300,000 from the $2.5 million to 7.5 million capital required now.

The priority list also includes a measure seeking to help solo parents, and another that will set up a system for both manual and automated national and local elections.

The Senate is on a month-long break and is set to resume sessions on Jan. 18. The second regular session will end on June 4.

Also on the list is a bill that will change the eight-decade-old Public Service Act, effectively allowing more foreign participation in sectors such as telecommunications, electricity, water and transportation.

The 1987 Constitution limits foreign ownership in public utilities to 40%. The law passed in the 1930s provides a list of public services and does not say what a public utility is.

The chamber will also push the creation of a Department of Overseas Filipinos, Boracay Island Development Authority and Disease Prevention and Control Authority.

Lawmakers will also work on a bill setting up an eCommerce bureau, through a proposed Internet Transactions Act, and strengthen the Presidential Drug Enforcement Agency to boost the drive against illegal drugs.

The Senate will also try to pass measures on land resource use, housing development and financing, a magna carta for village health workers and a unified pension system for the military and uniformed personnel.

Also on the list are bills that will restore the death penalty, increase the age of statutory rape, provide potable water supply for every village, boost e-governance and professional development. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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