MANILA (Mabuhay) – Senate President Franklin Drilon assured Monday the Senate will prioritize this year the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law alongside bills ensuring sustainable economic growth.
In a press statement, Drilon said the Senate has made the BBL a priority because of its importance to securing not only peace in Mindanao, “but also genuine social justice and economic development which can end the poverty and social inequities that have plagued the region for too long.”
“The present situation provides many opportunities towards sustainable peace. We cannot fail our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. The Senate is one with the administration in its goal to pass the BBL, and we remain confident that even with the many important debates, we can pass the BBL within the year,” he said.
The Senate committees on local government and peace and unification, headed by Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr and Teofisto Guingona III, respectively, have been conducting hearings in Mindanao on the matter.
The Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, headed by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, is set to conduct hearing on the constitutional matters surrounding the proposed BBL on Jan. 26.
Drilon said economic measures aiming to improve the nation’s business climate and fine-tune its fiscal and economic policies top the Senate’s to-do list for 2015.
“In 2014, the Senate passed important legislation on social and health services, and education, such as the law on automatic Philhealth coverage for senior citizens, the Graphic Health Warning Act, and the Iskolar ng Bayan Act. This year, we are directing our efforts to the economic sector, to ensure that the nation’s progress will not be hindered by events in the local and global markets,” he said.
He said as part of their list of economic reforms, the Senate will “harmonize numerous fiscal and non-fiscal incentives and subsidies to foreign and domestic investors, so that the government can avoid redundancies and revenue loss.”
He added they will also look into the proposed amendments of the Build Operate Transfer Law, to address policy gaps identified in the present law:
“We need to create a better enabling policy environment for Public-Private Partnerships. We need to invite more investments from the private sector through the most appropriate incentives, and at the same time, our policies need to ensure that the buying public will get fair and reasonable prices and efficient services from such PPP projects or ventures,” the Senate leader said.
Drilon said the Senate will study and review options for a new mining fiscal regime for the country, in order to implement “responsible mining policies, with emphasis on improving environmental mining standards and protecting the rights of affected communities, while promoting economic growth.”
“Our view is that we need to increase the government’s share from mining revenues, since it is imperative that the Filipino people must have their fair share in an economic activity such as mining, which involves the extraction of our natural, finite and limited non-renewable resources. The minerals are owned by the Filipino people, and not by those who have mining licenses,” he said.
He further said the Senate will also work on proposed bills seeking to streamline the operations of government agencies, to improve their ability to deal with and manage the various sectors which greatly contribute to the nation’s economic condition.
“The Senate will work on the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, which aims to institute electronic process of import and export, simplify the customs procedure for ordinary citizens, and increase the operating flexibility of the Bureau of Customs, and as well as on the proposed bill on amendments to the charter of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP),” Drilon said.
“We will also act on the bill creating a Department of Information and Communications Technology that will be tasked to develop ICT systems and further enhance communication services vital to the country’s development,” he added.
Drilon said there was the Executive and Congress had a shared awareness between the Congress and the Executive on the need to pass these laws in time for important events in 2015, such as the ASEAN market integration.
In 2014, the Senate approved its version of the Fair Competition Act and the Sugar Cane Industry Development Act, and that both houses of Congress have allowed the full entry of foreign banks in the country, he said.(MNS)