By Ben Rosario
Pressed for time to pass urgent measures that would address economic difficulties triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior administration congressman proposed the holding of a special session during the two-month sine die adjournment that will start June 2.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, urged President Duterte to call Congress to a special session to ensure the passage of critically needed economic measures that would swiftly boost the economy severely damaged by the pandemic.
The Defeat COVID-19 adhoc committee (DCC) created in the Lower House has lined up for approval at least five vital legislative measures in response to the crisis.
Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said the various House committees will be allowed to conduct hearings and deliberate on important bills to fast-track their passage.
Romualdez said the plenary approval of three bills and two resolutions seeking to kick-start the economy with a P1.5 trillion stimulus package are among the priority measures targeted by the chamber.
Together with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Romualdez lauded leaders and members of the various DCC clusters for working “tirelessly” on the proposed measures.
“Their relentless zeal in pursuing legislative action on these bills
made it possible for us to calendar these measures for another
committee deliberation in the shortest time possible,” Romualdez, the
chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, said.
Salceda is confident that the country has a strong chance for economic recovery, especially if both the Lower House and the Senate succeed in passing the economic recovery plan that would supplement the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act.
“We need both by June if we want a V-shaped recovery,” Salceda said.
Salceda, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said the Lower House plans to pass the stimulus recovery program before next week’s adjournment.
“Our hesitation to do special sessions in the past was due to constituency work. We wanted to take advantage of breaks, in the past, to serve our districts. With the rules that allow us to convene virtually, we can do both constituency work and legislation during the scheduled adjournment. So, Congress would not mind a special session,” Salceda said.
Salceda estimates that up to US$12 billion in foreign investments has already been foregone due to the two-year delay in passing the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA), which was approved by the Cabinet on January 2018.
He added that a delay in the passage of an “adequate” economic recovery plan costs the economy up to P100 billion in new economic activity every week.
“Every single week that we are unable to pass an economic stimulus plan and the corporate tax reform causes us hundreds of billions of pesos in foregone opportunities every week. At that rate, hindi na po kayang palagpasin pa hanggang (we can’t wait until) July. June is the time to get them enacted into law, so that we can still reap the benefits in the second half.
“Kami po sa (We in the) House, we are confident that if we have to, we can get both approved by June 3. If the Senate cannot, the President should extend session and not terminate until they get both passed,” Salceda said.
“We cannot delay covering the economy’s wounds. We must stop the bleeding now.”