Last two weeks of 18th Congress

Last two weeks of 18th Congress

Before long the 19th Congress will take over from the 18th Congress. In the approaching last two weeks of the latter, we note that seven business groups and six foreign chambers have called on the House and Senate to pass the remaining priority economic reform bills as Congress.

In letters sent to House and Senate leaders, the business groups and chambers commended legislators for the enactment of landmark legislation like the Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act, and the amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and Foreign Investments Act.

The groups also called on Congress to pass additional achievable reforms in the remaining session days of the 18th Congress.

The groups urged legislators to pass the bills that have passed the House and require counterpart action in the Senate. These are the Ease of Paying Taxes bill, Open Access in Data Transmission, Philippine Creative Industries, Promotion of Digital Payments, Tax Reform Package 3: Property Valuation and Assessment Reform, and Tax Reform Package 4: Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation.

The groups also looked forward to the ratification of the reconciled version of the bills that are currently under bicameral conference committee deliberation.

These are the Philippine Transportation Safety Board Creation and Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act.

In the letter sent to the Senate, the business groups and chambers also strongly encouraged ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

Signatories to the letters were business groups Bankers Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc., and Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation, Inc.

Foreign chambers that signed the petition were the 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, Inc. and Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.

Also in the same stretch, we note that a congressional leader has appealed to the incoming administration of presumptive President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to raise the research and development (R&D) sector budget to one percent of Gross Domestic Product over five years.

At the same time, Rep. Jose Clemente Sarte Salceda of Albay, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, also urged the incoming administration to retain the Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Pena in his Cabinet.

Salceda made the statements during his acceptance speech for the DOST’s inaugural HEROES (House of Representatives Exponents of Responsive and Outstanding Engagement in Science) Award. Salceda is the first recipient of the agency’s highest recognition for legislators.

“The 2022 research and development sector budget is 18 percent higher than it was in 2021. But we need to grow our R&D budget faster than that. It has to increase by 600 percent to get to a competitive level. In other words, the budget needs to compound by around 30 percent instead of 18 percent every year,” Salceda said in his awardee’s policy speech.

“Given our current starting point, and assuming the next administration enacts the bill on its first year, by the end of its term, we can reach the 1 percent of GDP prescribed by the UNESCO as the minimum R&D investment for a country to be competitive,” Salceda added.

Salceda appears to have a point when he called on the next administration to prioritize “three key policy areas” for science.

Let’s listen to him: “[W]e need to invest heavy research and development on three areas where we do not have adequate scientific exposure: agriculture to feed our people, mining and commodities to feed our industries, and energy to feed our economy.

“On agriculture, the growth in agricultural output has to outpace the growth in population and income combined. That means agricultural output has to grow by around 9 percent every year for the country to stop bleeding money to imports.”

On commodities, Salceda said “we need to do much more to keep mining fiscally rewarding, commercially viable, and ecologically sustainable.”

“Most of our metallic exports are still in ore form. That means value is added and created to our mineral products elsewhere. Our communities bear the brunt of the ecological damage, but the economic value is created elsewhere.”

“[T]he DOST must invest in mining and metallurgical technology to encourage the processing of much-needed minerals here,” Salceda added.

“I make this emphasis because in a decade of high global commodity prices, especially for metals and fuels, the only balancing factor for our economy is to at least benefit from higher prices in the commodities we produce and export.”

“Third, we need to invest in energy independence. It has both economic and geopolitical consequences.”

Salceda particularly emphasized the need for nuclear energy, which may find a more receptive administration in a Marcos Jr Presidency.

“It is the cleanest, most reliable energy source currently available to mankind. To me, it is our best chance at medium-term energy sovereignty. That is why I am championing the Philippine Nuclear

Regulatory Commission, in preparation for a deeper dive into nuclear energy.”

Alluding to the ongoing conflict in Europe, Salceda called on the administration to “Let Russia-Ukraine be the cautionary tale.”

Salceda has some muscled points.

(ai/mtvn)

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