Congress sessions resume; CREATE, Amla among top priority

LAWMAKERS resume sessions today (January 18), with both the House of Representatives and the Senate vowing to push two key bills—Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) and amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla) of 2001—to their logical end, as these are reforms long sought by the Executive.

House Majority Leader Martin G. Romualdez on Sunday said the lower chamber, under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, will continue to work double time in passing the Duterte administration’s legislative agenda, including economic reforms that would help government in its Covid-19 response.

Romualdez, chairman of the House Committee on Rules, said the House leadership will work on the immediate approval of the CREATE, which is now in bicameral conference deliberations; and amendments to Republic Act 9160 or Amla.

“These [CREATE and Amla amendments] are administration measures which the Department of Finance classified as vital for our economic recovery program. We are going to harmonize immediately the differences between the Senate and the House versions during the bicameral conferences,” said Romualdez.

“Once enacted into law, the CREATE bill will definitely provide businesses, particularly micro-, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), with one of the largest economic stimulus measures in the country’s history to help them recover from the economic turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

Coco trust fund, land titles

According to Majority Leader Zubiri, who chairs the Committee on Rules, the Senate’s legislative priority will focus on the ratification of the bicameral committee reports on CREATE, Coco Farmers Trust fund as well as the Confirmation of Imperfect Land Titles.

“We will also approve on third reading the amendments to the AMLA,” he said, adding: “Moreover, we will push for the measures that have been approved on third reading but have no approved counterpart from the House of Representatives, such as: establishment of separate prison facilities for heinous crimes convicts; protecting children by prohibiting and declaring child marriage as illegal; creating a National Transportation Safety Board; establishing the Philippine Energy Reasearch and Policy Institute; Authorizing the Department Of Agriculture to use the annual tariff revenues in excess of P10 billion under RA 11203 for direct cash aid to farmers owning 1 hectare or less of rice land until 2024.

Zubiri added, “We will also start the discussions and debates on the amendments to Retail Trade Liberalization Act;  increasing the age of Statutory Rape;  amendments to the Public Services Act; creation of the Department of OFWs; E-governance Act; Military and uniformed Personnel Services Separation, Retirement and Pension Act; Expanded Solo Parents Act, and Internet Transactions Act.

CREATE bill

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda said the bicameral conference committee on CREATE will reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill this month.

Romualdez said the Amla amendments needs to be passed before February for the Philippines to avoid inclusion in the Financial Action Task Force’s so-called gray list.

House Bill 7904, seeking to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Law of 2001, as amended, will protect and preserve the integrity and confidentiality of bank accounts and ensure that the Philippines shall not be used as a money laundering site for the proceeds of any unlawful activity.

“We need all these laws if we are to bounce back from the economic ravages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

CREATE is now pending in the bicameral conference committee while Amla amendments were approved by the House on third and final reading last December, and are up for third reading approval in the Senate.

SONA bills

Also, Romualdez said the House is scheduled to approve on third and final reading the expanded Solo Parents law, which is part of President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address’ (Sona) priority measures.

Romualdez said the House already transmitted to the Senate the following Sona priority measures: HB 00304 or the Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation (PIFITA) Act; HB 04664 or the Real Property Valuation Assessment; HB 06134 or Mandating Banking Institutions to Strengthen the Financing System for Agricultural, Fisheries and Rural Development in the Philippines; HB 78 or the Public Service Act Amendments; HB 05832 or the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment (DFOFE) Act; HB 05989 or the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR); HB 07406 or the Bureau of Fire Protection Modernization Act; and HB 07805 or the Internet Transaction Act/E Commerce Law.

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