House Ways and Means Committee chair, Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, is pushing for the enactment of “crucial and relatively easy and achievable” reforms the government and Congress can still pursue in the final six months of the Duterte administration, and cap it on a high note.
Salceda has listed what he referred to as ‘10 low-hanging fruits’ that can still be pursued, in a document titled: Finishing strong, starting anew in 2022, which he said requires that “we should do them first thing in the new year. “By working with champions in legislation. President Duterte can end his term having accomplished more of his promised reforms than any other President in recent memory,” he added.
Salceda has been the principal author and sponsor in Congress of President Duterte’s urgent bills, among them the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, the investment liberalization agenda, and his key reform measures in health, education, public safety, infrastructure, and governance.
He has also authored several major legislations which are either pending in Congress, particularly in the Senate, or awaiting the President’s signature, most of which Salceda referred to as the “low hanging fruits the government and Congress can pursue.”
Salceda’s list includes: 1) the completion of the Foreign Direct Investment liberalization agenda and the passage of the Public Service Act amendments; 2) Enactment of Packages 3 and 4 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program;
3) Financial inclusion reforms such as the Fair and Inclusive Credit Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act, as well as allowing OFWs to invest in Philippine equities while abroad; 4) Agricultural reforms in his (Salceda’s) 5Fs framework (farms, fisheries, forestry, feeds, and fertilizers); 5) Portable PhilHealth through a single-patient, single-record system and a free national telemedicine hotline;
6) The Department of Disaster Resilience Act and the amendments to the National DRR Law requested by President Duterte; 7) Anti-smuggling efforts by both Congress and the Bureau of Customs, particularly against fruit and vegetable smuggling, ecozone smuggling, and illicit trade in tobacco and fuel; 8) The issuance of the Strategic Investment Priorities Plan that will enable the full implementation of the CREATE Law;
9) Reforms to lower the costs of medicine, by expediting customs processing of VAT-free medicines, bulk procurement of medical supplies in public hospitals, and guidelines for medical bill transparency; and 10) Job creation in infrastructure through ‘frontloading’ the infrastructure program and exempting public works from the election ban on government spending and hiring.
Salceda said the approval of the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Foreign Investments Act (FIA), and the Public Service Act are “crucial reforms” to boost the country’s bid for more foreign direct investments. The amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Foreign Investments Act measures now await the President’s signature, while the Public Service Act is now pending before the bicameral conference committee of Congress.
The lawmaker said there are three key elements to the decision to invest: constraints, risks and potentials. “On constraints, the questions are: Is the door open in the first place? What can keep the investor from investing more? On risks: How secure is the investment? What can keep the investment from making a return? Finally, on potential: What’s in it for the investor? Does the upside or the margin justify the investment?” he explained.
“We addressed the upside with the CREATE Law, but we still need to address the constraints through the liberalization bills,” added Salceda. Under the amended FIA, foreign professionals will be encouraged to return to the country to share with Pinoys their knowledge, expertise, skills and technical know-how and allow them to enhance their competitiveness in both the domestic and international labor markets.
The measure also allows start-ups and start-up enablers endorsed by lead host agencies pursuant to RA 11337 to be funded by foreigners with a minimum capital of P100,000, to encourage investments that will pioneer new industry sectors in the country.