Belmonte: FOI among House priorities

Posted at 07/29/14 1:18 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives remains committed to the reforms of the Aquino administration and to ensuring the passage of landmark legislation, including the Freedom of Information Bill as well as proposals to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday.

In his message at the opening of the second regular session of the 16th Congress, Belmonte said that while the legislature has posted successes, it is faced with the bigger challenge of sustaining economic growth and consolidating the governance reforms initiated by the administration.

“No opportunity must be missed, and no effort spared – this momentum of growth and social transformation must be sustained,” Belmonte said.

“We must pass legislation that will further sustain this growth, accelerate inclusive development, and sustain the reforms for good governance that we have achieved in the past four years,” he said.

He said breakthroughs in the administration’s fight against corruption were even cited by global leaders, including World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, who referred to the Philippines as the next “Asian miracle.”

Among the many priority measures being readied for approval by the chamber aside from the FOI bill are the proposed Anti-Political Dynasty Act and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“Amending restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution that constrain the flow of important foreign direct investments in strategic sectors of our economy also demand our attention,” Belmonte said.

He said the Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, which seeks to relax restrictive economic provisions, is set for plenary discussion.

To ensure the country attracts the right kind of investments, Congress is also determined to pass the proposed National Competition Law, the proposed Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives Act and the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act.

He said there is an urgent need to amend the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) as the precarious power situation is threatening to undermine the country’s growth momentum.

He said the House committee on energy must consolidate proposals to address the need for competitive bidding of bilateral contracts and for the establishment of a genuinely competitive power market.

Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, vice chairman of the committee on economic affairs, said the chamber is also looking at relaxing requirements for the President’s exercising his emergency powers in the event of a power crisis.

Oaminal also said the House is expected to revisit provisions that prevent the government from engaging in power generation.