Legislative agenda: Only 2 Ledac meetings so far
(Last of two parts)
The State of the Nation Address (Sona) is one opportunity for the President to lay out his legislative agenda. Through the last five years, Aquino has asked Congress to pass legislation covering good governance, economic policies and public services, among other measures.
Promise: Convene the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Sona 2010)
The Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac), established by Republic Act No. 7640 during the Ramos administration, is a venue for the executive and legislative branches, as well as representatives of the private sector, to discuss a coordinated legislative program.
The President chairs the Ledac, which serves as a consultative and advisory body on national development programs and policies. Its members include the Vice President, the Senate President, the House Speaker, seven Cabinet members, three senators, three House members and one representative each from the local government, youth and private sectors.
The law requires the Ledac to meet at least once every quarter, but may be convened by the chair for special meetings, as may be necessary. Since President Aquino assumed office, he has convened the Ledac only twice and both meetings were held in 2011.
In 2013, Aquino said he was open to holding Ledac meetings, but not every quarter. “If it’s for better coordination, so much the better. But again, I’m not sure if holding it quarterly is necessary. We’ll talk,” he said.
On Feb. 28, 2011, the first Ledac meeting under the Aquino administration, the President presented 22 priority bills organized into five clusters.
Bills under the human development cluster included proposals to create a Department of Housing and Urban Development, amend the night work prohibition in the Labor Code, increase the number of years for basic education, amend the National Health Insurance Act, and reorganize the National Food Authority.
Measures that covered infrastructure development included amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law, amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), and rationalization of the Economic Regulation of Water Utilities.
Priority bills under economic development included the rationalization of fiscal incentives and institution of a National Land Use Act.
Measures covering sovereignty, security and rule of law includes bills designating archipelagic lanes, defining maritime zones, modernizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines, resetting the date of election of officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), establishing antitrust laws, strengthening the Witness Protection Program, providing benefits and security of whistle-blowers, and establishing a National Defense and Security Act.
On good governance, the proposals included reforms in land administration, fiscal discipline in government-owned or -controlled corporations, amendments to the procurement law and strengthening the antimoney laundering law.
On Aug. 16, 2011, Aquino convened the Ledac for the second time. He asked the leaders of Congress to pass quickly 13 other measures, including one concerning reproductive health, which was “fine-tuned” into a responsible parenthood bill.
Aside from pushing for the responsible parenthood, reproductive health and population and development laws, Aquino sought the immediate passage of measures amending the Human Security Act, the People’s Television Network Law and the rural electrification program; restructuring the excise tax on alcohol and tobacco products; providing for the delineation of the specific forest limits of the public domain; granting broader protection for consumers; protecting individual personal data in information and communications systems in the government and in the private sector; reorganizing the Philippine statistical system; imposing stiffer penalties for stealing or tampering with government risk reduction and preparedness equipment, accessories and other facility items; providing for additional benefits and protection for house help; expanding the coverage of the science and technology scholarship program; and amending the Twenty Percent Balanced Housing Law.
So far, 21 laws have been passed to realize 18 of the 35 common priority measures. (There were instances when two or three laws were enacted to deal with different components of a measure.) These enacted laws include:
— Republic Act No. 10149, or the GOCC Governance Act
— RA No. 10150, or the Lifeline Rate Extension (one of the proposed amendments to Epira)
— RA No. 10151, or An Act Allowing the Employment of Night Workers
— RA No. 10153, which synchronized the ARMM polls with the national elections in 2013
— RA No. 10157, or the Kindergarten Education Act, and RA 10533, or the K-12 Enhanced Basic Education Act
— RA No. 10167, RA No. 10365 and RA No. 10168, all of which strengthened the Anti-Money Laundering Act
— RA No. 10173, or the Data Privacy Act of 2012
— RA No. 10344, or the Risk Reduction and Preparedness Equipment Protection Act
— RA No. 10349, which amended the AFP Modernization Act
— RA No. 10351, or the Sin Tax Reform Act of 2012
— RA No. 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012
— RA No. 10361, or the Domestic Workers Act
— RA No. 10390, or An Act Revitalizing the People’s Television Network Inc.
— RA No. 10531, or the National Electrification Administration Reform Act of 2013
— RA No. 10606, or the National Health Insurance Act of 2013
— RA No. 10612, or the Fast-Tracked S&T Scholarship Act of 2013
— RA No. 10625, or the Philippine Statistical System Act of 2013
— RA No. 10667, or the Philippine Competition Act
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Promise: Pass a fiscal responsibility bill (Sona 2010)
A fiscal responsibility law will promote responsible fiscal management by prohibiting new spending that’s not supported by revenue. This means that the Congress shall have to identify revenue measure or source of funding before passing a “revenue-eroding legislation.”
During the 15th Congress, a fiscal responsibility bill was filed but did not move beyond the committee on appropriations in the House of Representatives and the ways and means committee in the Senate.
In the 16th Congress, two versions of the bill instilling fiscal discipline were filed in the House by Cavite Rep. Francis Abaya and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. The proposals are pending in the House appropriations committee and the Department of Budget and Management was asked for a position paper.
In the Senate, a proposed fiscal responsibility act was filed by Sen. Ralph Recto. In August 2013, it was referred to the committees on finance, economic affairs and ways and means.
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Promise: Pass amendments to the Procurement Law (Sona 2010)
At least 16 bills amending RA No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, are pending in both the House and the Senate. The bills have been transmitted to the appropriations committee of the House and to the committees on finance and constitutional amendments and revision of codes of the Senate.
* * *
Promise: Pass an antitrust law (Sona 2010)
On July 21, President Aquino signed RA No. 10667, or the Philippine Competition Act, which would curb unfair and anticompetitive trade practices and level the playing field for all companies operating in the country. Congress passed the consolidated version of Senate Bill No. 2282 and House Bill No. 5286 in June.
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Promise: Pass a national land use law (Sona 2010)
The national land use bill would institutionalize a national land use policy that would identify, determine and evaluate alternative land use and allocation patterns in the country. The bill, first filed in 1992, has been languishing in the Congress for two decades.
During the 15th Congress, Aquino certified the bill urgent. The House passed it but its counterpart measure failed to hurdle the Senate amid the bickering of senators over the release of additional maintenance and other operating expenses.
In the 16th Congress, the House approved on third reading the proposed National Land Use and Management Act, while in the Senate different versions of the bill are still pending on the committees on environment and natural resources, urban planning, housing and resettlement and finance.
* * *
Promise: Pass a national defense law (Sona 2010)
Senate Bill No. 1400, or the proposed National Defense and Security Act of 2013, filed by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, was referred to the committees on national defense and security, foreign relations and finance. Its counterpart measure in the House, filed by Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, is pending in the committee on national defense and security.
* * *
Promise: Pass a whistle-blowers law (Sona 2010)
During the 15th Congress, House Bill No. 5715, known as the Whistle-blower Protection, Security and Benefit Act of 2011, was passed by the House, but a similar bill did not progress to third and final reading in the Senate.
In the current Congress, six bills on whistle-blower protection are pending in the Senate. The bills were referred to the committees on justice and human rights and finance. There have been joint committee hearings and technical working group meetings. In the House, nine bills on whistle-blower protection are pending on the committee on justice.
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Promise: Pass a witness protection law (Sona 2010)
In the 16th Congress, three bills amending RA No. 6981, or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, were transmitted to the Senate committees on justice and human rights and finance. Joint committee hearings and technical working group meetings were conducted in the Senate earlier this year. In the House, eight bills on witness protection are pending on the committee on justice.
* * *
Promise: Passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before the end of 2014 (Sona 2013)
The draft BBL is supposed to implement the peace agreement that the Aquino administration signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year. It will serve as the charter of the proposed Bangsamoro region that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The approval of the proposed BBL has been delayed.
The bill was transmitted to the House in September last year, after months of delay. The submission of the Malacañang version of the bill was pushed back due to the administration’s desire to ensure that the proposed Bangsamoro law would meet constitutional standards.
At the time, Senate President Franklin Drilon said passing it by the end of 2014 would be “extremely difficult” but that the senators would “give it our best shot.” Drilon and his counterpart in the House, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., set a self-imposed deadline of March 2015.
The approval of the bill hit a snag after the Jan. 25 clash between police commandos and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, that left 44 Special Action Force commandos, 17 MILF rebels and three civilians dead. Lawmakers have expressed doubt about the effectiveness of the proposed BBL.
Belmonte has said that the bill would be approved in September.
In the Senate, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chair of the local government committee tackling the measure, is scheduled to submit a substitute bill when Congress returns on July 27. Drilon said the Senate would prioritize deliberations on the substitute bill when Congress resumes session.
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Promise: Amend the Cabotage Law (Sona 2013)
Aquino signed on July 21 RA No. 10668, or the Foreign Ships Co-Loading Act, amending the Cabotage Law to lower interisland shipping costs. The House and the Senate approved the consolidated version of Senate Bill No. 2486 and House Bill No. 5610 in June.
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Promise: Enact the fiscal incentives rationalization bill (Sona 2013)
There are two measures that would rationalize and make more transparent the grant of tax incentives to investors. The fiscal incentives rationalization bill would harmonize more than 200 laws that provide different tax systems in giving away incentives to investors while the proposed Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (Timta) provides for the creation of a tax expenditure account, from which tax incentives granted by investment promotion agencies will come.
The Timta has been approved on third reading by both the House and the Senate. The consolidated version of House Bill 5831 and SB 2669 is awaited.
The Fiscal Incentives Rationalization Bill is still undergoing refinement by a technical working group. As of March, the proposal was still being completed by the departments of finance and trade and industry, giving Congress limited time to pass it before President Aquino ends his term in 2016.
Under the proposal of the DTI and the DOF, enterprises registered with the Board of Investments (BOI) would be entitled to a 15-percent income tax for 15 years.
Those registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) would be entitled to an income tax holiday of only four years, after which they have to choose between two options: a 5-percent tax on gross income earned in lieu of all national and local taxes, and a 15-percent income tax for 15 years. Peza incentives can be renewed on the discretion of the Peza board of directors.
Effectively, a cap will be implemented only for BOI enterprises while Peza locators can enjoy continuous perks provided they get approvals from the Peza board.
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Promise: Focus on land administration reform bill (Sona 2013)
In the Senate, there are five bills on land administration reform referred to the committees on environment and natural resources, civil service and government reorganization and finance. In the House, there are three pending bills on reforms in land administration and they have been referred to concerned agencies, including the budget department, which was asked to submit a position paper.
Sources: Inquirer Archives, senate.gov.ph, congress.gov.ph, ledac.neda.gov.ph
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