A measure encouraging social responsibility in the private corporate sector by providing them with fiscal benefits when they engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects and programs in communities has been approved in the House of Representatives.
Voting 283 against three and zero abstentions, lawmakers approved on third and final last Monday House Bill 451 or the Corporate Social Responsibility Act, which is a consolidation of six similar measures filed by several lawmakers.
“This measure recognizes the important role of the private sector not only in nation-building but also in developing and aiding our communities to raise the quality of life of our citizens. With the vast resources available to our corporations, they are in a position to help our country,” said Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez.
According to HB 451, the State recognizes the vital role of the private sector in nation-building and shall “encourage its active participation in fostering sustainable economic development and environment protection in the Philippines.”
“Towards this end, the government shall mobilize its various agencies, in coordination with nongovernment and people’s organizations, to work hand-in-hand for the integration, promotion, and strengthening of corporate social responsibility in all business organizations,” it read.
The main objective of the bill is to foster sustainable economic development and environmental protection by encouraging corporations to inculcate the value of social responsibility in community development in their organization’s operations and activities, whether they are single proprietorships, partnerships or corporations.
For starters, among the benefits provided in the measure to encourage CSR among corporations is that it allows stock corporations to retain profits in excess of 100% of paid-in capital stock to be used for expansion or corporate social responsibility projects or programs.
HB 451 also defined CSR as referring “to the commitment of business to contribute on a voluntary basis to sustainable economic development by working with relevant stakeholders to improve their lives in ways that are good for business, sustainable development agenda and society at large.”
HB 451 also mandates the Department of Trade and Industry to recognize and reward all business organizations for outstanding, innovative and world-class CSR-related services, projects and programs.
“It shall likewise extend endorsement and encouragements to domestic and foreign corporations doing business in the Philippines which are candidates for recognition in international award-giving bodies for their CSR-related activities,” it said.
Also, it states that local government units shall “extend whatever assistance is necessary” for business organizations to accomplish their CSR programs and projects in their respective communities, and “shall encourage business organizations within their territorial jurisdiction to conduct CSR projects/activities.”
Furthermore, all existing laws and regulations that prevent LGUs under a state of calamity or national emergency to solicit or accept donations of products and services under CSR-related activities for disaster relief and assistance of a business organization are amended.
“All business organizations are allowed to donate products and services under their CSR-related activities for disaster relief and assistance, in accordance with the regulations to be issued by the appropriate government agency,” the bill said.
KABATAAN Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel voted “no” to House Bill 451 as the bill may allow corporations to use CSR events and activities as a means of improving their public image while still exploiting workers in the Philippines.
“This means that corporations can continue to underpay workers and subject them to poor working conditions, while using CSR as a cover-up for their unethical practices,” he said.
“There is [also] a lack of a clear regulatory framework in the bill that can prevent the use of CSR for corrupt practices and tax loopholes. This can lead to corporations using CSR as a means of evading taxes and engaging in patron-clientelism,” he added.
Manuel said “what we need from corporations is for them to be accountable for the damage they do to our people and the environment.”
“This includes paying workers a livable wage, providing suitable benefits, and ensuring safe and healthy working conditions. It also means holding corporations liable for the pollution, emission, and waste that their production causes. We should not give corporations the impression that CSR is a substitute for fulfilling their responsibilities to their workers and the environment, which is unacceptable,” he added.
Image credits: Olivier Le Moal | Dreamstime.com