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Biz groups: Prioritize investments, jobs

May 15, 2019

TWO business groups bared on Tuesday a list of priority measures, including amendments to the Public Services Act and the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and Higher-quality Opportunities (Trabaho) bill, that the country’s new set of lawmakers should pass to boost economic activity when the 18th Congress opens in July.

They did so days after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) unveiled its own list of such measures, including those on sugar liberalization and the creation of a department to manage the country’s water resources.

In an interview with The Manila Times, Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) President Rizalina Mantaring said “Congress should prioritize legislation that improves productivity of the economy and generates investments and jobs, and consequently uplifts the lives of our people.”

According to her, one of these is amending the Public Services Act, also known as Commonwealth Act 146, to relax policies on the allowable percentage of foreign ownnership in public utilities. The law currently prohibits majority foreign ownership in the sector.

Such an amendment would “opens up public utilities, such as seaports, airports and transport to foreign investors,” Mantaring said.

Alegria Limjoco, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president, agreed, explaining to The Times that many opportunities await if this happened.

These include possible ventures in railroads and railways, freight services, ferries, energy, water, and communications.

The 17th Congress has tagged the bill amending that law as a priority and is pending approval, as is the Trabaho bill, which seeks to reduce corporate income taxes from 30 percent to 20 percent in 10 years while rationalizing tax incentives.

On Trabaho, Limjoco said incoming lawmakers should “put certainty to the country’s tax incentives regime.”

For her part, Mantaring said passing Trabaho, along with the other tax-reform packages of the government, would make the tax system “fairer, simpler and more efficient.”

Once this measure is approved and implemented, a new tax regime could help in funding infrastructure programs and other initiatives, she added.

If passed, Trabaho would be the second tax-reform package approved by Congress. The first, Republic Act 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Act, was implemented in January 2018.

Under Train, higher excise taxes were imposed on certain products, including tobacco, fuel and automobiles, in exchange for reduced personal income taxes.

Securing water supply

Mantaring and Limjoco also pushed for the creation of an agency to regulate the country’s water supply, after a water crisis hit 1.2 million households in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in early March.

The MAP president said the proposed Department of Water could “facilitate coordination of policy and program implementation” to improve regulation.

It could also “encourage private sector participation in the management of water sources and provision of services,” she added.

PCCI earlier issued a statement urging the government to implement policies to make sure that the water problem Metro Manila residents experienced would not happen again.

Both business groups also called for the passage of the proposed National Land Use bill, which seeks to “provide for a rational, holistic and just allocation, utilization, management and development of the country’s land to ensure their optimum use, consistent with the principle of sustainable development.”

The measure gained support following the government’s closure of Boracay island in Aklan province for six months last year to undergo environmental rehabilitation.

Mantaring said the bill’s passage would encourage “investments in agriculture, while promoting well-planned and well-regulated urban growth.”

Ease of doing business

They also called for the signing of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery.

A full-fledged director of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) is the one tasked to do this, but President Rodrigo Duterte is yet to appoint someone to the post.

Limjoco said lawmakers should to focus on the proposed National Quality Infrastructure Act to “ensure our products and services meet national and international standards.”

She also called for a stronger implementation of Philippine Apprenticeship Act and Freedom of Information Act.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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