Is Congress’ Top Agenda
Legislation aimed at addressing “economic challenges” will be high on the agenda during the third regular session of the 15th Congress, leaders of the lower and upper Houses on Monday, July 23 said.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. emphasized the need to further improve the country’s business and investment climate in separate sessions of the two legislative chambers, prior to President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address.
Enrile and Belmonte particularly pushed for changes to the constitutional provision which limits foreign ownership to 40 percent in certain investment areas.
“It is high time that we revisit the economic provisions of the Constitution which, to my mind, restrict our economic progress and growth,” Belmonte said.
However, Belmonte warned against changing the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution “overnight.”
In his speech before the Senate, Enrile said: “We seek to amend only certain economic provisions therein such that there will be more flexibility in the ownership of certain industries, particularly those that are involved in the exploration, development and utilization of our natural resources.”
He also identified as priority Senate bills aimed at prohibiting or discouraging anti-competitive mergers; providing state support to Filipino business concepts; creating a Bureau of Copyright; and improving consumer protections, especially against “botcha” or double-dead meat.
Belmonte, for his part, said other measures the House will push for include a Fiscal Responsibility Act; an Anti-Trust Act to reduce transaction cost; amendments to the Energy and Power Industry Reform Act and strengthening the National Electrification Administration; and the National Transport Policy Act which is expected to “set the direction” for the development of the country’s transport system.
He also stressed the need to pass the law institutionalizing “K to 12,” which adds two more years to the country’s basic education system, to strengthen human capital resources.
Aside from legislation for economic reform, also identified as priority are measures aimed at improved governance.
Enrile said, Senate will prioritize bills that require public officials and employees to submit waivers to allow the Ombudsman to look into their bank deposits; amend the Anti Money Laundering Act; and strengthen the political party system.
The House, meanwhile, will fast-track the passage of bills amending the Government Procurement Reform Act and the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, Belmonte stressed.
Both the Senate and the House will likely continue the discussion on the Freedom of Information Bill and Reproductive Health Bill, which Enrile said “have been cause for intense debate.”
In the second regular session, the House approved on third and final reading a total of 15 measures identified as priority by the Legislative Executive Development and Advisory Council (LEDAC), Belmonte said. Enrile, on the other hand, said the Senate approved only five LEDAC priority measures. /MP