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Joint foreign chambers push anew for Congress OK of 24 measures

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THE members of the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) are again calling for the enactment of at least 24 legislative measures in the 19th Congress, including the liberalization of foreign equity restrictions in the Constitution and the further lowering of barriers to entry in the telecommunication sector.

While the seven business groups expect the Philippines’s strong economic performance to continue with the recent undertaking of reforms and policy directions, which they “believe can provide significant opportunities for foreign investment, job creation, and improved services,” the foreign chambers stressed anew the need to enact at least 24 legislative reforms in the 19th Congress.

“We reiterate the need to pass additional reforms to further improve the country’s investment climate. The JFC and our partner Philippine business groups [PBG] have recommended an initial list of 24 legislative measures for enactment in the 19th Congress, which include the liberalization of foreign equity restrictions in the Constitution, the further lowering of barriers to entry in the telecommunication sector, and additional improvements to the tax system, among others,” the business chambers said in a joint statement on Thursday.

“This following list of priorities will guide the PBG-JFC in its advocacy activities through the three years of the 19th Congress. Additional measures may also be added to the list over the course of the current Congress,” read the Arangkada Philippines Legislation Policy Brief for November 2022.

The 24 legislative measures include the liberalization of foreign equity restrictions in the Constitution where amendment is sought to the economic provisions of the Constitution to remove foreign equity restrictions.

Another legislative reform that the business groups wish to enact is the Open Access in Data Transmission which they said “seeks to lower barriers and cost to entry for data service providers and promotes sharing of infrastructure and efficient use of resources.”

Other reforms are the Ease of Paying Taxes Act, Promotion of Digital Payments and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Act Amendments for hybrid or flexible work schedules.

Under the Ease of Paying Taxes Act, the business groups said they seek “to simplify and modernize tax administration to increase tax compliance.”

Among the bill’s provisions, the business groups noted, is the institutionalization of a simplified process of filing tax returns for small taxpayers.

Meanwhile, under the Promotion of Digital Payments, the business groups hope this specific reform would mandate the use of “safe and efficient” digital or electronic mode of payments by all national government agencies, government-owned and -controlled corporations, and local government units (LGUs).

As for the reforms under the CREATE and PEZA Act, the business groups wish to see amendments seeking to allow locators “greater flexibility in setting work from home arrangements.”

Other reforms being pushed for enactment in the 19th Congress are the Freedom of Information Act;  Property Valuation and Assessment Reform; Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act; Build-Operate-Transfer Law amendments or the Public-Private Partnership Act; Secrecy of Bank Deposits Law amendments; and the National Unemployment Insurance.

More legislative reforms, the business groups noted, are on the Department of Disaster Resilience; E-commerce Act amendments; Pandemic Protection Act; Holiday Rationalization Act; Philippine Ports Authority Act; Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) Charter amendments; and Intellectual Property Code amendments.

The foreign and local business groups are also pushing for the enactment of the Philippine Pension System Portability and Strengthening; Apprenticeship Program Reform; and Agricultural Lands Ownership Easing Act.

There is also a repeal sought to remove the 15-percent domestic preference in awarding contracts for construction or repair of public works under the Commonwealth Act 138 (Flag Act).

The business groups also seek to strengthen “the oversight functions of government agencies over the imposition of shipping charges by international shipping lines and institutionalizes mechanisms for the efficient movement of goods” under the International Maritime Trade Competitiveness Act.

Another proposed measure seek to ease regulatory requirements for the use of satellite-based internet technologies to connect unserved and underserved communities under the Satellite-based Technologies Promotion Act.

Image credits: AP/Aaron Favila

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