Duterte signs 4 new bills into laws, vetoes 2

By Argyll Geducos

President Duterte has signed four new bills into laws recently while vetoing two others, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

In a text message, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also confirmed that one of the bills Duterte signed into law was the Rice Tariffication Bill. Medialdea confirmed that it was one of the four bills signed.

The Rice Tariffication bill will replace the present quotas on rice imports with rice tariffs instead. It will also reduce government's role in rice importation and lead to more rice imports by the private sector.

Local farmers opposed the law in fear that it would flood the market with cheaper rice from abroad. Duterte, however, said the measure would address the urgent need to improve availability of rice in the country, prevent artificial rice shortages, reduce the prices of rice in the market, and curtail corruption and cartel domination in the rice industry.

Aside from the said bill, Duterte also signed into the law the bill which seeks bigger discounts on political advertisements during an election period.

Duterte also signed the New Central Bank Act which seeks to increase the capitalization of the Bangko Sentral Ng Pilipinas (BSP) and strengthening its regulatory powers. It will expand BSP's supervisory power to other categories of financial institutions. The New Central Bank Act also gives the BSP more teeth in imposing administrative and criminal sanctions.

The last bill Duterte recently signed into law is the Social Security System (SSS) Rationalization Act which allows SSS to expand the investing capacity of the pension fund that will generate better income for the benefits of its members and pensioners.

It also aims to strengthen the pension fund through the implementation of the gradual increase on monthly contributions from the current 11 percent to an additional 1 percentage point starting on the year of implementation until it reaches 15 percent in 2025, and the gradual adjustment of the minimum and maximum monthly salary credit.

However, Medialdea also confirmed that Duterte vetoed the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund. He confirmed that there was also a partial veto on the Tax Amnesty Act.

Malacañang is yet to give an explanation behind the veto.

The Tax Amnesty Act grants those who have failed to pay for taxable year 2017 and prior years a one-time opportunity to settle tax obligations, including estate taxes, general taxes and delinquent accounts. The government is expected to raise up to P41 billion, which will be used to fund infrastructure projects and for social mitigating measures under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN law.

Meanwhile, Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund seeks to create a trust fund which would be used solely for programs for coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.

Last week, it was confirmed that Duterte vetoed the Act to Further Strengthen the Philippine Coconut Authority, saying the bill is vulnerable to corruption.