Belmonte stresses need to re-focus on economic gains and opportunities for continued development

MANILA, July 27 (PNA) — Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Sunday that Congress is ready to welcome President Benigno Aquino III for his State-of-the Nation Address (SONA) before the joint session of the 16th Congress on Monday, July 28.

Physical and other related preparations are in full swing for this constitutional event in the nation’s political life, during which the President will deliver his report to the Filipino people on issues of national concern, according to Belmonte.

The Speaker made his rounds Wednesday and has been on top of preparations, while assuring the people that his leadership in the House will not backtrack on its legislative priorities in wake of current controversies which he described were “part of the pain we must endure in instituting genuine reforms in the pursuit of transparency, good governance and all-inclusive growth”.

Corollary to the President’s SONA message, Belmonte underscored the vitality of local governments’ active participation and role in national development.

The House leader stressed the need for every Filipino to “have a sense of urgency in taking advantage of the opportunities that beckon on us today” rather than dwell on missed opportunities of the past.

Belmonte stressed the need to re-focus on gains and further develop all our resources. He said creativity and innovation implemented at the national and local government levels should “catalyse the provision of better services to the Filipino people and achieve an all-inclusive growth.”

“The attainment of all-inclusive growth remains a challenge for us all,” he declared, adding that based on the latest forecasts, the nation will continue to expect a buoyant economy in the wake of recent natural calamities.

Barely a week before the opening of the second regular session of the 16th Congress, the Speaker came up with a doable list of legislative priorities touching on vital realms of economic development, investments and finance, infrastructure, education and human development and good governance, among others.

Aside from his personal advocacy to amend the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution as key to maximize the influx of direct foreign investments in the country, the Speaker also revealed a briefer on a package of reforms that the House is working on.

“This reform package is intended to improve the business climate, create jobs, reduce poverty, and foster transparency and accountability, all from the perspective of our journey towards inclusive growth,” he stressed.

The brief list includes: a) measures to strengthen and enhance the functions of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas; 2) up-dating the Tariff and Customs Code to facilitate and curb abuses and corruption in the Bureau of Customs; 3) The proposed amendments to the Foreign Investment Act to facilitate the lowering of minimum paid-in capital for foreign equity, and removing divestiture requirements for foreign investors; 4) pursue a Competition Policy to complement ongoing market-oriented reforms and institutionalize an effective domestic competition regime at all industry levels.

“At the same time, we shall rationalize and promote transparency in the grant of fiscal incentives, focusing on the objective of trade facilitation and investment promotion without prejudice to fiscal prudence,” the Speaker added.

He, likewise reiterated his commitment to pass the proposed Freedom of Information Act to “foster greater transparency and accountability in the government.”

Relative to infrastructure development, Belmonte assured that, together with their senate counterparts, “we intend to pursue further reforms that will improve the state of infrastructure in the country, including the cost and adequacy of power and water, as well as transportation and logistics.”

Infrastructure-related policy reforms include: 1) proposed amendments to the BOT Law to facilitate greater involvement and participation of the private sector in meeting infra requirements; 2) review and study on possible amendment to the Cabotage Law to liberalize transhipment services; 3) a review of the EPIRA to determine what amendments are necessary to truly achieve a stable, reliable, affordable and transparent power supply market.

In the area of equitable and sustainable water management system, Belmonte said the House will pursue the measure strengthening the regulation of water utilities through the National Water Resources Board, enabling it to work better towards the development, conservation and protection of water resources.

And notably, as what happened in previous years, the House is committed to passing the General Appropriations Bill on time “to facilitate the time roll-out of programs and projects of the government” Belmonte assured. (PNA)