Stronger Ledac ties pushed

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    The country’s economic managers have proposed to the House and Senate to hold informal or technical-level meetings of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council more often to ensure better working relations with lawmakers.

    In a letter jointly addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, the Cabinet secretaries underscored the need for more clarity, on the basis where the executive can support bills with fiscal or economic implications, to manage the expectations of lawmakers on such measures.

    “The Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) look forward to working more closely with the 18th Congress, under your leadership, to better align the priorities of the legislature with the President’s development agenda,” the letter said.

    The letter was signed by DOF secretary Carlos Dominguez, socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia and DBM officer-in-charge Janet Abuel, who has since been replaced by secretary Wendel Avisado.

    In a Development Budget Coordination Committee briefing held at the Lower House yesterday, Pernia said the emerging key policy reform agenda until the end of the administration’s term include the remaining tax reform packages; budget reform bill; amendments to the public service act, foreign investment act, retail trade act and the Build-Operate-Transfer Law; the national competition policy; creation of a Department of Water and Water Regulatory Commission; national land use bill; and disaster resiliency bill.

    Economic managers proposed that the DOF, DBM and NEDA actively engage the leaders and committees of both the Senate and the House in providing them with vital and timely inputs on the various economic and fiscal bills pending in the 18th Congress.

    In their letter, the economic managers pointed out that “effective collaboration between the executive and legislative branches” during the previous Congress was crucial in the passage of key economic and fiscal reforms.

    These reforms, they said, include the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law, Estate Tax Amnesty, Tobacco Tax Reform, Rice Liberalization, National ID System, Ease of Doing Business and the Universal Health Care.

    “These game-changing reforms led to a credit rating upgrade from Standard and Poor’s. The upgrade, from ‘BBB’ to ‘BBB+’, is a strong vote of confidence in the Duterte administration’s reform agenda,” the economic managers said.

    “This would not have been possible without the strong support of the Congress,” they added.

    Apart from ensuring that the Congress pass more game-changing reforms needed to secure an “A” rating for the Philippines, the economic team also underscored the need to guarantee fiscal discipline. This means “taking a strong position on what is not in the best interest of the people as a whole.”

    “While some bills seek to benefit some sectors, they take away money from millions of other poor and jobless people who also deserve our help,” they said.

    Thus, in the letter, the economic team outlined their position on, among others, the grant of incentives; the creation of more freeport zones; the imposition of guarantees or quotas on lending, credit and other artificial barriers on resource allocation, including price controls and ceilings; mandatory addition of programs to the national budget; earmarking of funds; and the creation of new government corporations or departments.

    They pointed out that in the 17th Congress, 147 bills were proposed that collectively would either erode revenues by P178 billion or mandatorily add P799 billion to the budget, or a total of P977 billion, which the government cannot afford.

    Moreover, 31 bills proposed to create more tax-free freeports or ecozones, adding to the 546 that the country already has as of 2017. Many of these ecozones contribute to massive revenue leakages and the assorted incentives they grant are subsidized by taxpayers, they noted.