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Passage of economic bills pushed before election season

/ 05:10 AM March 25, 2021

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said the economic managers have recently asked President Duterte to declare certain pending economic bills as urgent so that these could be passed before the start of the political season in October. During the question-and-answer portion of a business forum on Tuesday, Lopez was asked for a likely timetable on the passage of bills that aim to liberalize the economy. “Just recently, the economic managers, about four of us, have endorsed to the President to certify all these bills as urgent,” Lopez said, referring to amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization law, the Foreign Investment law and the Public Service Act. “Hopefully, we can get the approval by the President so that all these can be certified urgent,” he added.

According to the calendar of activities of the Commission on Elections, the start of October will be the period for filing certificates of candidacy for all elective positions as well as the filing of certificates of nomination and acceptance. There are also efforts to ease the country’s economic restrictions by amending the Constitution instead of passing these pending economic bills. In a Laging Handa briefing earlier this year, Lopez said there might not be enough time for charter change because of the fast approaching elections and suggested to pass the bills instead.

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But when facing lawmakers in a congressional hearing soon after, he said he was leaving it to the wisdom of legislators on how to best approach the issue despite the limited time. “We definitely find merit in the initiatives to remove any provision restrictive to economic progress and we reiterate the statement we gave in other fora that we pose no objection to the review of economic provisions of our Constitution to address these barriers to investments,” Lopez said.

“We are just mindful of the current challenges brought about by the pandemic, including the nearing 2022 presidential elections that might affect the focus, nature and pace of the deliberations, but we leave that concern to the wisdom of our legislators,” he added.

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“We have nothing against [charter change] especially if it’s just [an amendment] of an economic provision. We’re just worried that, given the limited time and it is almost election again, maybe we’ll run out of time,” Lopez said before.

“But what could be done instead is maybe to [pass] the pending bills that will open up further restrictions so that foreign investors will be encouraged to enter many sectors,” he said.

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