LEADERS of Congress on Monday agreed to make a priority passage of at least four proposed measures, including the Bangsamoro Basic Law, during the remaining six weeks of their second regular session.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said both chambers of Congress have committed to pass key legislations that would help boost the country’s competitiveness amid emerging opportunities and challenges brought about by economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
According to Drilon, he and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. have placed the proposed BBL atop the priority list with the aim of passing the measure before Congress adjourns sine die on June 11.
The Senate chief gave his assurance that the BBL will be given special legislative attention the moment the Senate Committee on Local Government reported it out in plenary.
“We will devote extra time and effort to ensure the passage of a BBL that is constitutional, fair and inclusive, one that will help end the decades of strife in Mindanao,” Drilon said.
He expressed confidence that the Senate could pass its version of the BBL on time although he admitted that he expects strong debates on the floor over the passage of the measure.
Aside from the BBL, the Senate President said that leaders of Congress also agreed to make a priority the passage of three economic measures—Senate Bill 2969 or the Tax Incentive Monitoring and Transparency Act (Timta), SB 2486 or the Carriage of Foreign Container Vans (Cabotage) and the merger of Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
Timta, which is pending at second reading, would promote transparency and accountability in the grant of tax incentives to business entities.
SB 2669 seeks the establishment of a Tax Incentives Tracking Program of all tax incentives granted, and the setting up of stringent reportorial schemes to the President and to Congress.
The tracking program will be used by the Department of Finance (DOF), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) to monitor tax incentives granted by investment promotion agencies (IPAs) or other government agencies, to project tax incentives for future years and to conduct an annual evaluation study to determine impacts of the tax incentives on the Philippine economy.
As for the merging of LBP and DBP, Drilon said the Senate is just waiting for the House of Representatives to pass its version and transmit it to the Senate.
The proposed merger is part of efforts to rationalize government operation and remove redundancy of functions since LBP and DBP are offering the same services.
The proposed amendments to the cabotage law are also among the priorities of Congress. The Senate already approved its version SB 2486.
Cabotage is a principle that allows a country to reserve movement of domestic cargo to national carriers to the exclusion of foreign vessels and the Cabotage Law is expected to lower domestic shipping cost, which is higher than shipping fees for goods moved from the Philippines to another country.
The proposed measure will amend the country’s Cabotage Law to reform the shipping industry and to help control prices of basic commodities.