The economist of the House of Representatives on Saturday said further reforms in economic policies were needed to enable more foreign investments that would help the Philippines recover from the recession caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, said the immediate passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill was among measures needed to speed up economic recovery.
The CREATE bill is one of the legislative priorities identified by President Rodrigo Duterte in his State of the Nation Address on July 24.
CREATE bill provides for the reduction of corporate income tax to 25 percent from 30 percent.
In addition, Salceda said the swift approval of the proposed amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, Public Service Act and the Foreign Investments Act would go a long way towards ensuring the Philippines’ fast economic recovery.
“We have already given our versions of all of these reform bills to the Senate, so we hope for their speedy approval. We cannot attract new jobs and new investments if, as the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) says, we are the most restrictive to investments in Asia,” Salceda said.
The country plunged into recession following a 16.5-percent economic contraction in the second quarter, deeper than the revised -0.7 percent in the first quarter and the lowest since 1981.
Investments in infrastructure and human capital development must be made either this year or next year to ensure that contraction of the economy “will not translate into permanently lost income,” Salceda said.
Salceda said he saw agriculture as one of the saviors of the economy as he noted that the sector grew by 1.6 percent despite the lockdowns.
“Agriculture is a hedge from economic crises. As food will always be an essential commodity... food production will always be resilient industry.”
Salceda said amendments to the Agri-Agra Reform Act of 2009 are necessary to provide farmers, fishermen, and rural communities greater access to credit, as well as the proposal for condonation of the agrarian reform beneficiaries’ loans in the Land Bank of the Philippines.
“This will release 1.228 million hectares of land for more efficient agricultural use, and will benefit 682,000 ARBs,” he said.