Business Groups Give Priorities List

February 07, 2017 News

FIFTEEN local and foreign business chambers submitted to the Office of the President last month a list of reforms they hope would be approved by the 17th Congress and enacted into law.

In a Jan. 19 letter to Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea — a day before Malacanang convened the Legislative­Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) after more than five years of dormancy — the Philippine Business Groups­Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines said that 12 reforms, if prioritized, would improve the business and economic climate in the country which would contribute to making sure that the country's robust economic growth will lift more Filipinos out of poverty.

Signing the letter were leaders of Alyansa Agrikultura; American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham); Australia­New Zealand Chamber of Commere of the Philippines, Inc.; Bankers Association of the Philippines; Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.; European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.; Financial Executives of the Philippines; Foundation for Economic Freedom, IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines; Japanese Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.; Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc.; Makati Business Club; Management Association of the Philippines; Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc.; and Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc.

The Jan. 20 LEDAC meeting resulted in an agreement for the entire body to convene quarterly, for its executive committee to meet every month, and to include the Judiciary since court interference in legitimate business contracts has long been a disincentive for investors.

LEDAC — a 20­member advisory body formed under Republic Act No. 7640 during the administration of former president Fidel V. Ramos — is currently led by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and consists of Vice­President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, among others.


"Our business groups have selected 12 reforms after a series of meetings among ourselves and representatives of congressional and Executive agencies and an email vote for a list of 25 proposed measures," the letter read.

The business groups have chosen constitutional amendments to ease foreign equity restrictions as its top priority.

The 12 reforms, arranged by priority, are as follows: constitutional amendments (foreign equity restrictions), comprehensive tax reform package, apprenticeship program reform, build­operate­transfer law amendments, freedom of information, corporation code amendments, Public Service Act amendments, telecommunication sector reforms, water sector reform, bank secrecy law amendments, emergency powers to address traffic and transportation crises, and retail trade law amendments.

"Given the multiple bills for most of these proposed laws, the undersigned support them in principle but not always in every detail. Our specific comments and suggestions will be made during the legislative process and in consultation with concerned departments," the letter read.

While Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella could not be reached for comment, a senior AmCham officer suggested there is a lot of common ground.

"We received a very positive response from the LEDAC Secretariat. Most of the bills are included in the draft PDP. I was told the official LEDAC list is not yet public nor has the final PDP been approved," John D. Forbes, AmCham senior adviser, said in a text message, referring to the updated Philippine Development Plan 2017­2022 that will be released this quarter.

Asked if the foreign chambers are considering to have an Arangkada Philippines project, Mr. Forbes said that there is still "no decision on that but we may hold the annual forum in September."

The Arangkada Philippines project, established during the administration of former president Benigno S. C. Aquino III, assessed the government against a checklist of reforms recommended by the business sector.