A committee under a legislative-executive advisory council has identified 13 priority bills as urgent, including a national identification system, the Traffic Crisis Act and a measure prohibiting labor-only contracting schemes, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said over the weekend.
The urgent bills were listed by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) Executive Committee ahead of the resumption of congressional sessions next week.
In a statement, the NEDA said the legislative measures identified as urgent during the committee’s first meeting last Thursday were the Unified National Identification System Act, Security of Tenure Bill, utilization of the coconut levy fund, National Transport Act to address the transport and traffic crisis, Budget Reform Act, National Land Use Act, Rightsizing of the National Government, amendments to the Anti-Cybercrime Act, amendments to the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, amendments to the NIA Charter allowing free irrigation, amendment to the Public Service Act, Ease of Doing Business Act or the Fast Business Permit Act, and Government Procurement Reform Act amendments.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said that by identifying them as urgent, “we mean that we would want them passed into law possibly within the year.”
Pernia said the bill amending the agricultural tariffs should be rushed.
“We need rice tariffication because the import quantitative restriction (QR) allowed by WTO [World Trade Organition] already ended. This is to prevent uncertainty as to what the demands of WTO members will be following the lapse of the QR,” he explained.
In 2014, the WTO allowed the Philippines to extend its rice import quantitative restriction or quota, meant to protect farmers, until June 30, 2017, in exchange for tariff concessions on other goods.
The government has decided to remove the quantitative restriction and instead impose tariffs on rice, but extended the quota and concessions until Congress passes amendments to the Agricultural Tariffication Act.
Pernia said earnings from rice tariffs would be used to improve the productivity of farmers and the agriculture sector, as specified in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 that aims to expand economic opportunities in agriculture.
The bills are part of the 28 measures included in the proposed Common Legislative Agenda reviewed and vetted by the NEDA-Ledac Secretariat, for final approval of the council.
The agenda consists of measures prioritized based on the President’s Legislative Agenda and the Common Legislative Priorities of Congress.
The Ledac is the highest consultative and advisory body to the President on economic and development matters, aimed at integrating the legislative agenda with the national development plan.
The council is composed of high-level officials from the government’s executive and legislative branches, as well as representatives from the private sector, youth and local government units.
Republic Act 7640 provides that the Ledac shall meet at least once every quarter, but it may be convened by the President for special meetings as may be necessary.