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Business groups draw up a " wish list " for Aquino's farewell Sona

July 22, 2015 News

Local and foreign business groups have drawn up their “wish lists” for President Aquino’s farewell State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday that reflect several concerns which, the groups said, remain unaddressed by the Aquino administration five years into the presidency.

Businessmen enumerated the issues they want mentioned in Mr. Aquino’s farewell Sona on Monday and be included in the administration’s last push for reforms for the remaining year in office.

Management Association of the Philippines President Francisco del Rosario urged Palace action on broad issues that include tax reforms, the creation of the proposed the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the long-awaited merger of the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Alfredo M. Yao, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a previous interview, said Customs reforms must also be addressed in President Aquino’s Sona.

Local business groups, including the Makati Business Club, are also pushing for the Freedom of Information Act, comprehensive tax reform, and the amendments to the build-operate-transfer law.

This menu of reforms is included in a previously sent letter of the Philippine business groups with the Joint Foreign Chambers to President Aquino.

Speaking for employers, Edgardo Lacson of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) sought changes to the labor code, which, he said, has remained unchanged since the martial-law era.

“It has always been Ecop’s advocacy to amend the restrictive and punitive provisions in the four-decade-old labor code crafted during martial-law years to align our labor policies with the rest of Asean and enhance our competitiveness,” Lacson said via text message.

On the upside, exporters are lauding President Aquino’s signing on Tuesday of the Cabotage law, saying it is one issue crossed off the list of businessmen.

“The signing today [Tuesday] of the Cabotage law is one out on the wish list but we would like that some budget be allocated for export development,” Philippine Exporters Confederation President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in a text message.

Ortiz-Luis was referring to the P1.8-billion fund for export promotion promised to exporters but which has yet to be approved by Malacañang.

Exporters’ main blueprint for their sector’s competitiveness, the Philippine Export Development Plan, has also yet to be approved by the President. It was submitted in the third quarter of last year.

Speaking for the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Chamber President Michael Raeuber said several issues continue to worry European businesses.

Among these is the slow or even noncompliance of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to release their value-added tax (VAT) refunds.

“The government is not honoring some of its commitments under VAT refund and is thereby withholding large amounts of working capital from investors,” Raeuber said.

The sudden halt of change in economic provisions of the Constitution by Congress was also mentioned as a lingering concern.

“The unexpected decision by the House leadership not to proceed with House Resolution 1 as the first step to open the country to more competition by amending the economic provisions of the Constitution is a concern too, but we still hope it moves forward during this Congress and administration,” he added.

Sona security

The secretary-general of the House of Representatives on Tuesday said high security will be implemented starting on Friday at the Batasan Complex for Mr. Aquino’s last Sona and for the opening of the third regular session on July 27.

House Secretary-General Marilyn Barua-Yap, in an interview with reporters, said at least 7,000 security forces are set to deploy to secure the Batasan Complex.

Yap said the opening of the third regular session will be done at 10 a.m., while the main event, the address, is estimated to start at 4 p.m.

She said 289 representatives and 21 senators, as well as former presidents, former members of Congress, heads of the diplomatic community and Cabinet officials are expected to attend the event.

Yap added that an estimated 2,700 guests are expected to fill the galleries of the lower chamber’s plenary hall, while 3,000 to 6,000 guests are expected to gather in different conference halls of the House of Representatives for the live streaming.

According to Yap, the event will cost the lower chamber around P2.3 million, with the bulk of the budget allotted for the food.

Ten-year-old Gwyneth Dorado, one of the Filipino finalists in the just-concluded Asia’s Got Talent search show will do the honor of singing the Philippine National Anthem (“Lupang Hinirang”), preceding the much anticipated Sona of President Aquino before a joint session of Congress. 

Source: Business Mirror