Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution, along with other reform measures designed to help realize the Aquino administration’s goal of inclusive growth, are among the legislative priorities of the House of Representatives in the 2nd regular session of the 16th Congress.
The 16th Congress opens its 2nd regular session today, July 28, which will be followed by President Benigno Aquino III’s report to the Filipino people—his State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA).
Belmonte said that despite the spate of controversies which has hounded the Congress, the House under his leadership will not backtrack on its legislative priorities, which will center on economic development, investments and finance, infrastructure, education and human development and good governance.
These controversies are “part of the pain we must endure in instituting genuine reforms in the pursuit of transparency, good governance and all-inclusive growth,” said Belmonte, who is also the honorary chairman of the National Unity Party (NUP).
Besides seeking amendments to the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution, Belmonte said his leadership will also focus on 1) measures to strengthen and enhance the functions of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas; 2) updating the Tariff and Customs Code to facilitate and curb abuses and corruption in the Bureau of Customs; 3) proposing revisions to the Foreign Investment Act to facilitate the lowering of the minimum paid-in capital for foreign equity, and removing divestiture requirements for foreign investors; 4) pursuing a Competition Policy to complement ongoing market-oriented reforms and institutionalize an effective domestic competition regime at all industry levels.
“The attainment of all-inclusive growth remains a challenge for us all,” the Speaker noted. “This reform package is intended to improve the business climate, create jobs, reduce poverty, and foster transparency and accountability, all from the perspective of our journey towards inclusive growth.”
Belmonte said the House will also push measures that aim to rationalize and promote transparency in the grant of fiscal incentives, “focusing on the objective of trade facilitation and investment promotion without prejudice to fiscal prudence.”
He, likewise reiterated his commitment to pass the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to “foster greater transparency and accountability in the government.”
Recognizing infrastructure development as an indispensable element in making the Philippines a magnet for investments, Belmonte said the House “intends to pursue further reforms that will improve the state of infrastructure in the country, including the cost and adequacy of power and water, as well as transportation and logistics.”
These infrastructure-related policy reforms include: 1) proposed amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law to facilitate greater involvement and participation of the private sector in meeting the country’s infrastructure requirements; 2) review and study on possible amendment to the Cabotage Law to liberalize transhipment services; and 3) a review of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to determine what amendments are necessary to truly achieve a stable, reliable, affordable and transparent power supply market.
In the area of equitable and sustainable water management system, Belmonte said the House will pursue the measure strengthening the regulation of water utilities through the National Water Resources Board, enabling it to work better towards the development, conservation and protection of water resources.