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NEDA to brief Congress on urgency of passing reform bills

ECONOMIC PLANNERS will make their pitch to Congress on the urgency of passing economic reform bills before the legislature turns its attention to preparing for next year’s national elections, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Monday.

“A few more months before the campaign season, we will work to get the rest of the bills passed. We will present to the Congress the urgency of having economic bills passed because these were packaged,” Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said in a televised briefing.

Mr. Chua said the amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Foreign Investment Act, which are all pending at the Senate, should be passed this year as these are “crucial in revving up the Philippine economy” and sustaining its recovery from the pandemic.

They complement other economic reforms and programs such as the Build, Build, Build infrastructure initiative and the strengthened anti-red tape law, he said.

“What’s the point of lowering the taxes, providing infrastructure, the ease of doing business law if investors cannot come in because there are restrictions?” he said.

He said legislators could help ensure the long-term recovery of the economy by passing pending measures designed to attract more foreign direct investment.

“We are now working on the (passage) of GUIDE (and the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery) bill,” Mr. Chua said.

The GUIDE bill, which is expected to be passed by the House plenary this month, seeks to help strategically important firms by helping them address any solvency issues. The Congress adjourns sine dine in June.

The Senate lists the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, or Republic Act No. 8762, and to the Public Service Act or Commonwealth Act No. 146 among its own priority bills.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said the chamber will exert “best effort on all bills addressing the economy.”

“Preparations for 2022 elections are not a hindrance because there is not much campaigning that can be done considering the pandemic,” he told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.

If the President does not certify the measures as urgent and does not exert pressure on his allies in the two chambers of Congress, the measures won’t pass, University of the Philippines political science professor Maria Ela L. Atienza said Friday.

“If some of these pending bills are not be passed by this administration, then they will have to be reintroduced in the next Congress,” she told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.

She said the inability to pass the pending economic bills could be seen as “a mark of failure on the part of the Duterte administration,” which has enjoyed a “supermajority” in the Congress for much of its term. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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