Booster shots for  a floundering economy

Published April 16, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Faced by continuing economic doldrums and a raging pandemic, President Duterte certified as urgent the immediate enactment of Senate Bill No. 2094 amending the Public Service Act, Senate Bill No. 1156 amending the Foreign Investments Act of 1991, and Senate Bill No. 1840 amending the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000.

The request was coursed through Senate President Vicente Sotto III as the three bills have already been passed by the House of Representatives on third and final reading while these were still being threshed out pending second reading in the Senate when Congress went on recess last March 26.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon remarked that if these three bills were finally enacted into law, the members of the House proposing that Congress be convened into a constituent assembly to amend “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution would have lost justification of their advocacy.

The administration’s latest move partially responds to the appeal made by several chambers of commerce and industry organizations for more comprehensive economic reforms to complement the passage of Republic Act 11534, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Act (CREATE) which they regard as one of the most significant fiscal reforms in the last three decades.

The group includes six influential chambers — namely, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, and the Korean Chamber of Commerce Philippines — and four major industry organizations: the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc., the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines and the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines.

Aside from the three bills already certified for Senate approval, the groups are seeking the enactment of the Open Access to Data Transmission Act, the Creative Industries Act, and the e-Vehicle and Charging Stations Act.

Moreover, these groups also rallied behind Resolution of Both Houses 2 (RBH2), which proposed to approve proposed amendments to the Philippine Constitution to allow Congress in the future to pass laws to allow increased foreign investment in advertising, education, media, and public utilities.

Meantime, hopes for a 6.5 percent GDP growth this year following last year’s minus 9.5 per cent contraction appear to be fading in light of the continuing surge in coronavirus infections requiring hospitalization, aside from the slow pace of immunization that has only spawned higher levels of vaccine hesitancy.  Testing and contact tracing still appear to be unsystematic.  Delayed PhilHealth reimbursement hobbles the ability of private hospitals to cope with increased service demand and adequately compensate overworked health care frontliners.

Proof positive of good governance and decisive crisis leadership are needed to boost investor confidence. Already saddled with the manifold challenges of coping with a protracted pandemic, Filipinos want to be assured that their government truly cares for them.