Legislation Policy Brief – Press Release

September 11, 2013 at 14:18

Business groups ask President Aquino and Congress for more urgent economic legislation

                Leading Philippine Business Groups and Joint Foreign Chambers (PBGs-JFCs) call on both houses of Congress and the President to push for more economic reforms that will further advance the country on its road to become a middle-income economy.

The call came amidst news that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country expanded by 7.5% equal or higher than other large emerging market economies in Asia.

But the positive reaction to the high growth rate has been dampened by the reality as stated by the National Economic Development Authority that “unemployment remains a challenge.”[1]

To make growth more inclusive, to create more jobs, and encourage higher investment, the PBGs-JFCs called on Congress and the Executive to enact business and economic reform laws at a faster pace.

The PBGs-JFCs announced a business  legislative agenda for the 16th Congress. The agenda is contained in a Legislation Policy Brief,  which identifies a number of broad recommendations for Congress and the Executive.[2]

The PBGs-JFCs stressed that business and economic reforms bills “should have high priority since they support investment and job creation.”

The following bills were identified as priorities: Competition policy/anti-trust (independent commission); Customs Modernization and Tariffs Act/Anti-Smuggling; Foreign Investment Negative List liberalization;
Government Procurement Act amendments;
Mining Fiscal Reform (competitive and equitable);
Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives;
and Transparency and Accountability in Fiscal Incentives.  The business legislative agenda was previously sent by the PBGs-JFCs to President Benigno S. Aquino and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa at the start of the 16th Congress. An additional 60 measures were identified in these letters.

The group points out that enactment of at least 29 business and economic reform measures by the 15th Congress surpassed 22 such measures passed in the 14th Congress. According to the group, “this performance supports the image of an advancing Philippine economy improving international competitiveness rankings, en­couraging investment, and eventually creating jobs.”

The group further projects that “the 16th Congress can be highly productive and can pass 20-30 bills that will improve the Philippine economy and national competitiveness” under the strong leadership and partnership between the Executive and Legislative branches.

The policy brief also noted that the record of Congress in enacting revenue-reducing and market improvement laws has improved.  None were enacted in the 15th Congress, compared to at least 8 in the 14th Congress.

Other recommendations made by the PBG-JFC include:

  • Prioritize “Low-hanging Fruit” bills, which can be enacted early in the 16th Congress as hearings and floor deliberations for most were completed in the 15th Congress in at least one chamber;
  • LEDAC should meet regularly to facilitate coordination between Executive and Congressional leaders.  (LEDAC has met only twice in 2011 in the current administration.)
  • Review all market-inimical and revenue-eroding bills;
  • Frontload the legislative workload to pass bills early rather than toward the end of the Congress.
  • Greater attention should be given to the timely approval and carrying out of IRRs and their immediate implementation.
  • A presidential executive order can hasten introduction of a reform; and

“Given the importance of laws and updated legislation to the growth of the economy, it is essential that business groups continue their role as advocates for the passage of reform laws,” it added.

The country recently saw some of the fruits of hard work to raise competitiveness by a 6-place improvement to 59th in the World Economic Forum ranking of the Philippines. This follows back-to-back ten place rises in the ranking for the two previous years. The Philippines is now counted among the top 40% of 148 countries ranked by the World Economic Forum. This contrasts starkly with 2009 when the Philippines was 87th out of 133 countries and among the bottom third.  But rising to 59th place is no reason to rest. The goal set by the National Competitiveness Council to reach the top 1/3 in 2016 is very attainable.  This performance is an excellent example of the theme of Arangkada which is Move Twice as Fast!! Passing needed reform legislation is another example of how the Philippines can move twice as fast.

The Legislation Policy Brief is first of a series of policy briefs to be released by The Arangkada Philippines Project, a 4-year USAID-AmCham advocacy project to advance the 470 recommendations in Arangkada Philippines 2010.  Implementing these recommendations will lead to the creation of $75 billion in new foreign investment, 10 million jobs, and over one trillion pesos in revenue for the Philippine economy within this decade.

The PBG-JFC is composed of the American Chamber of Commerce, Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, European Chamber of Commerce, Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Korean Chamber of Commerce,
Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Association of
Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and 
Philippine Exporters Confederation.

[1] http://www.gov.ph/2013/08/29/statement-the-secretary-of-socioeconomic-planning-on-the-2nd-quarter-performance-of-the-philippine-economy-for-2013/

[2] Legislation, Policy Brief No.1 (September 2013), Arangkada Philippines.

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Arangkada Philippines: A Business Perspective — Move Twice As Fast | Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines