The Senate on Monday unanimously approved on final reading three priority bills of the administration days before Congress adjourns sine die on June 2.
The priority measures passed are the Estate Tax Amnesty Act (SB 2219), Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act (Senate Bill 2035), and the Regional Specialty Centers Act (SB 2212).
Once adopted by the House of Representatives or ratified by the bicameral conference committee, these will be sent to Malacañang for the President’s signature.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who co-authored and co-sponsored the estate tax amnesty measure with Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, said the bill is their answer to the call of taxpayers who were pushing for another extension.
The bill extends the period of availment of estate tax amnesty by two years, until June 14, 2025. This is the second extension of the amnesty, which was first extended from 2021 to 2023.
“Owing to the challenges of the pandemic, there are still people who have not been able to avail of the amnesty even with the first extension,” Zubiri said.
“But we are not only extending availment window, we are also expanding on the estates covered by the amnesty. By doing so, we hope that we can assuage the grief of the families of those who fell during the long pandemic night.”
The counterpart measure at the House expands the amnesty coverage for the estates of individuals who died until December 31, 2021. The Senate version extends the coverage until May 31, 2022.
“Alongside the extension, the Senate bill also addresses issues with the ease of paying taxes by giving a clear list of requirements to be submitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, allowing for easier filing of tax returns, and allowing for an installment option for payments,” Zubiri said.
On the Regional Specialty Centers Act, Zubiri said this was his promise to the people during last year’s campaign.
“This bill is a shot in the arm of our public health system. To borrow a medical term, it is a major transfusion of resources to government hospitals in the regions, nearer to the sick who need affordable care.”
Under the bill, specialty centers will be established under government hospitals across the country in an effort to decentralize the services of specialty centers such as the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, the Philippine Heart Center, the Lung Center of the Philippines, and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), which are all located in Manila Manila.
“For the sick, the journey to big cities for treatment is the road to bankruptcy. Not only is the hospital bill enormous, transient stay is also expensive. What little money has been begged or borrowed end up being spent on lodging of carers instead of cure. The individual patient may survive, but family finances will not,” the Senate President said.
“If the people cannot go to where excellent care are, then government must bring excellent medical care to them,” he added
As for the Trabaho Para Sa Bayan Act, the measure seeks to establish a national employment generation and recovery master plan.
Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, the bill aims to stimulate national and local economic growth, enhance industry collaboration, and provide support to workers and businesses.
“Employment should not just be an incident to economic development. Generating more decent and permanent employment should be the objective of economic growth, to make growth inclusive and a reality for all,” Villanueva said.
Under the measure, a Trabaho Para sa Bayan (TPB) Interagency Council shall be created to formulate the master plan, which includes supporting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); worker upskilling; employer incentives; youth employment; as well as the reintegration of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), among others.