Business groups on Monday pushed for more reform measures to attract foreign direct investments, ensure job creation and preserve sectors affected hard by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry asked Congress to pass the Public Service Act, Foreign Investment Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Liberalization of the Agriculture sector by August 2020.
“We believe that these represent the most urgent measures that the government must take to ensure that our country and our people, especially the most vulnerable recover from COVID-19 in as quick and sustainable manner as possible,” PCCI president Benedicto Yujuico said during Sulong Pilipinas 2020, an e-conference organized by the Finance Department and the National Economic Development Authority.
Yujuico said the past few months saw the dire needs that should be addressed such as the systems that need to be changed, and the different ways that the government can improve its service to the public.
The PCCI asked the Agriculture and Trade departments, together with local government units, to set up a system where small farmers can efficiently deliver their produce to food hubs in various cities and provinces.
It also asked the Education Department and the Commission on Higher Education to team up with LGUs and private institutions to provide flexible learning materials, free Wi-Fi connection and access to computers for both students and teachers before the start of the next school year.
Yujuico also highlighted need for the immediate institution of the National ID system and efficient digital connectivity of all government agencies and LGUs to promote financial inclusion and digitalization.
Meanwhile, economic managers pushed four legislative “imperatives” that include revitalizing the agriculture sector and tapping state-run banks to assist distressed businesses to help ensure that the economy recovers quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic in a “strong, sustainable and resilient manner”.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III underscored the need for all proposed economic stimulus measures, including those pending in the Congress, to be fiscally responsible and sustainable.
Dominguez said these four imperatives were needed to spell a quick and strong bounce back for the economy. They include infusing more capital to government financial institutions to enable them to assist micro, small and medium enterprises and other companies hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic; allowing banks to dispose of non-performing loans and assets; reducing the corporate income tax rate from 30 to 25 percent and other investor-friendly reforms; and amending the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act to make it easier for banks to pump fresh capital into the farm sector.
“Even with a strong and resilient economy, our funds are not limitless. What we constantly underscore with various stakeholders, including the Congress, is the need to have a realistic economic recovery program that is fiscally sustainable because we do not know how long this pandemic will last. Support from the government must be targeted and focused on efforts that will yield the highest multiplier effect on the economy,” Dominguez said at the opening of the Sulong Pilipinas e-conference.
The online ‘Sulong Pilipinas” gathered around 600 representatives from MSMEs, local chambers and industry associations under the umbrella of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss how the economy can bounce back quickly and emerge more resilient from the COVID-19 crisis.