In this June 1 file photo, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon (left) inpsect three container vans of sugar, misdeclared as engine and aircon parts seized by authorities. The 1,521 bags are estimated at around P5 million.
MANILA, Philippines – International and local business leaders drew eight recommendations to President Benigno Aquino III to facilitate inclusive growth within his term, including an overhaul of the Bureau of Customs as well as the country’s gateways.
“It is imperative to overhaul the Bureau of Customs and to create an oversight body with private sector representations,” heads of 14 business groups including Makati Business Club president Ramon del Rosario Jr., Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry acting president Antonio Lopa and the American Chamber of Commerce president Rhicke Jennings said in the letter received by the Office of the President last June 21.
The letter said that the estimated P100 billion lost from smuggling can instead be used for social programs and infrastructure.
“Smuggling continues to derail your efforts on revenue collection and job generation,” it says.
The groups also advised Aquino to pass a measure that would ensure that the country’s customs procedures comply with the Revised Kyoto Convention recognized by the international community.
The immediate implementation of transportation infrastructure projects was also among the groups’ recommendations, highlighting the need to develop the Ninoy Aquino International Airport among others.
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De-clogging of the Port of Manila at Manila Bay and the connection project of major highways NLEX and SLEX are also pipeline projects under the Public-Private Partnership needed to be accelerated “at the soonest time,” the letter said.
The business community also reiterated its call to relax existing foreign ownership rules deemed to obstruct the flow of foreign direct investment.
“We strongly urge your administration to consider amending the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution, which restrict greater private sector participation,” the groups told Aquino.
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The president, however, can In the interim reduce the list of industries in the Foreign Investment Negative List, the letter says.
The chambers raised other issues that they believe Aquino should focus on for the rest of the term, namely:
- Enacting an effective anti-trust and competition policy to create “a level playing field” in investments, looking toward the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) 2015 integration.
- Rationalizing incentive-giving measures looked on to generate jobs and boost global competitiveness.
- Retaining the existing Philippine Mining Act, that has recently been subjected to controversy, along with a competitive fiscal organization.
- Committing to an additional power capacity and to a scheme to lower down power costs in a move to lure energy investors.
- Instituting Judicial and Legislative reforms including the hastening of cases and improving compensation of employees of the judiciary.
“Through these measures, the business community is of firm conviction that the Philippines will continue to be among Asia’s fast rising economies,” it concluded.
Signatories of the letter include Alyansa Akrikultura president Ernesto Ordoñez, Philippine Exports Confederation chief executive Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., Management Association of the Philippines president Melito Salazar Jr., Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce president Ian Porter, Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Julian Payne, European Chamber of Commerce president Michael Raeuber, Japanese Chamber of Commerce president Takashi Ishigami, Korean Chamber of Commerce president Eun Gap Chang and Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters Inc. president Shameem Qurashi.