Finishing strong, starting anew in 2022

Ten low-hanging fruits for the final stretch of the Duterte administration

By Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district)

Chairman, House Committee on Ways and Means

Senior Vice Chairman, House Committee on Economic Affairs

Vice Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations

Finishing strong before the administration graduates

I thank President Duterte for the trust and the confidence he and his government have given me as principal sponsor and author of his Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, his investment liberalization agenda, and his key reforms in health, education, infrastructure, public safety, and governance.

By working with champions in legislature such as this representation, he will end his term having accomplished more of his promised reforms than any other President in recent memory.

The tax reform program he entrusted to me and my committee, and his cooperation and support for tax reforms that I or my committee initiated, has been game-changing for the country.

As a result of our reforms to raise revenues for the government, we were able to fund free college tuition in all state universities and colleges, a reform I am proudest of.

We were able to fund more roads, bridges, and other rural and urban infrastructure than any other President before PRRD.

We have institutionalized the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, and during COVID-19, we undertook some of the largest ever financial assistance programs of any government in the country’s history.

Even when credit ratings among our peers have already been downgraded, our own standing remains resilient.

This government has also expanded the TUPAD work program, a program I humbly helped establish in anticipation of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

It has become a major driver of barangay and community improvement, while providing much needed relief to indigent and economically displaced families.

Ten low-hanging fruits for the earliest days of 2022

There are six months left in the administration’s term, but I am confident that there is enough political will and commitment for the following agenda items.

These are ten low-hanging fruits for the earliest days of 2022. They are ripe for picking.

1. Economic liberalization

We must complete the economic liberalization agenda of the administration by passing a final version of the Public Service Act amendments that truly fosters competition among economically-crucial industries such as telecommunications.

Once the PSA is passed, we will have sent to PRRD’s desk all three liberalization bills, including the amendments to the Foreign Investment Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.

2. Tax reform

We must complete the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program. I am proposing amendments to the Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform, or Package 3, to support economic recovery.

First, I support removing productive equipment from taxable real properties. This will stimulate mechanization and modernization in businesses and agriculture.

Second, I propose a transition period for local government units to comply with modernized valuation standards to cushion the

impact of sudden tax increases due to higher real property values.

Third, I propose a progressive tax system for housing – tax luxury, low-density housing higher, and tax socialized and low-cost housing lower.

3. Financial inclusion

Every Filipino an investor and entrepreneur. We must also pass the Passive Income and Financial Intermediaries Taxation Act or PIFITA, which is Package 4 of Tax Reform.

But, I also strongly urge the passage of accompanying financial inclusion measures. I am principal author of the Fair and Inclusive Credit Act, which will ensure that even the smallest entrepreneur has access to low-interest credit.

I also champion digitalization in the BIR to allow OFWs to invest in the country by having TINs registered offsite.

4. Agriculture reform

We must lay the groundwork for comprehensive reform of the agriculture sector. There are five key areas for reform work in agriculture: Farms (and farmers), Fisheries, Forestry, Feeds, and Fertilizers.

I will be filing, with DA support, measures to make farms more efficient, fisheries more modern and well-supported, forestry more viable and sustainable, feeds and fertilizers cheaper and more accessible.

5. Healthcare for all

On health, I will work to see improvements in the Philhealth. I will be meeting the National Economic and Development Authority to see how we can implement a single-record, single-patient system in Philhealth using the National ID system.

This will help prevent fraud while ensuring that Philhealth benefits can be easily availed of anywhere in the country. I am also proposing a free national telemedicine hotline that will help expedite triage, allocation of medical resources, and make primary care accessible anywhere in the country.

6. Disaster risk reduction and building back better

I will work with President Duterte to integrate his proposed reforms in the NDRRM Law with our Department of Disaster Resilience proposal. We have the time, the expertise, the need, and the political consensus required to reform our outdated disaster resilience framework.

I also hope to work with my colleagues to see whether we can establish a long-term Central Philippines Resilient Rehabilitation and Redevelopment Program for Odette-stricken areas.

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7. Anti-smuggling

I will be convening the Committee on Ways and Means, as soon as session resumes, for our work to combat smuggling in ecozones, illicit trade in excisable products, and to protect our domestic agriculture sector from smuggled fruits, vegetables, and other crops.

The BIR and BOC, under the leadership of Secretary Dominguez, have been very supportive and cooperative in our efforts.

8. CREATE Law implementation

I will also be convening the NEDA, DOF, and DTI to expedite the release of the Strategic Investment Priorities Plan, which will be the list of industries eligible for tax incentives under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises or CREATE Act.

We have experienced a surge in FDI this year, compared to even pre-pandemic years, an I expect the issuance of the SIPP to boost FDIs further, creating jobs and opportunities for more Filipinos.

9. Cheaper medicines

I am working with the Bureau of Customs to expedite the importation and release of medicines that are VAT-exempt under the TRAIN and CREATE Laws.

This will help ensure that these prescription drugs are new and without added costs due to delays. Bulk procurement remains the best way to ensure cheap medicines in our health care system.

For this reason, I am working on a reform that will allow public hospitals to consolidate procurement and allow the Secretary of Health to negotiate prices lower.

I am also confident that President Duterte can support my transparency in medical billing law, which will prevent surprise items in medical bills.

10. Jobs from infrastructure

I am supporting the frontloading of our infrastructure program to ensure that jobs are created as soon as the year begins. This will include supporting an appeal from the DPWH to exempt infrastructure spending and hiring from COMELEC rules on election hiring and government spending.

I am confident that we can begin picking these fruits as soon as the new year enters. I wish every Filipino family a peaceful and prosperous 2022.