The Senate aims to approve at least three key economic bills that their proponents say will help the country adapt to and benefit from changing global economic and business trends before the 17th Congress finally adjourns in June.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the economic affairs committee, identified the measures as Senate Bill 2102 or An Act Amending Republic Act 7042, otherwise known as the Foreign Investments Act (FIA) of 1991; SB 2133, which aims to strengthen the power and functions of the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan; and SB 2120 or The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Act of 2019.
The senator said he believes the measures will help foster an inclusive, efficient and competitive business environment in the Philippines, ensure the country will capture a lion’s share of foreign investments and create opportunities for more investment portfolios in the country.
“Again, it bears stressing that we need to come up with legislative reforms in order to create a more competitive business environment in the country and to make the country become more adaptable to the current and future business demands and trends,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
“Rest assured, we will immediately buckle down to work and, hopefully, finish these bills in three weeks before the 17th Congress adjourns sine die,” he added.
Once session resumes on May 20, Gatchalian said he will submit the committee report on SB 2102, which aims to amend the FIA to further boost foreign direct investment and job creation in the country.
SB 2102 seeks to update FIA’s declaration of policy to include economic growth, advancements in technology and the dynamic relationships among global and regional economies.
It also mandates the NEDA, in cooperation and consultation with the Board of Investments, Department of Trade and Industry, Securities and Exchange Commission and other government agencies, to conduct an annual review of the country’s Foreign Investment Negative List to ensure that the list is aligned with this policy.
Moreover, the bill seeks to amend Section 4 of the FIA to exclude “the practice of professions” from the coverage of the FIA, thus emphasizing that the law only governs equity investments in the Philippines by non-Filipinos.
As for the NEDA bill, the lawmaker expressed optimism the plenary will wrap up its amendments on the landmark bill and pass it on second and third reading.
The measure aims to institutionalize NEDA, empowering the agency to play a more important role in steering government policies to solve the country’s most pressing socio-economic concerns.
Under SB 2120, the NEDA will ensure the integration of major regional and local development priorities into the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan and Medium-Term Regional Development Plans, respectively.
It also institutionalizes the so-called Planning Call that will ensure a timely and coordinated planning process.
Gatchalian pointed out that the legislation has long been overdue since the current NEDA was created by Executive Order No. 230 on July 22, 1987, with then president Corazon Aquino exercising legislative powers before Congress resumed.
“In fact, Article 12, Section 9 of the Constitution contemplates the creation of an independent economic and planning agency headed by the President. However, until now – or 32 years since NEDA was created – an enabling law to fully exercise the functions of an independent economic and planning agency has not been passed by Congress,” he said.