Business groups urge recovery plan in SONA to rescue economy, MSMEs

Days ahead of the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Philippines’ largest business organizations appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to implement long-awaited economic measures to ensure the country’s recovery and save micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) fighting for survival amid the pandemic.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) sounded the urgent call in a letter to the President a few days ahead of his fifth SONA to be held on Monday, July 27.

The groups in the joint statement pointed out that while health-related initiatives to tackle the COVID-19 crisis should be prioritized, a clear strategy for economic revival should also be outlined during the President’s SONA.

“While we agree that health-related programs and policies should be prioritized in the context of this crisis, we likewise believe in balancing this objective with setting the economic stage towards recovery and progress,” the three groups representing businesses, employers, and exporters and MSMEs stated.

“There had been many delays already in pushing for these reforms as government and private sector got sidetracked by disasters and hazards even at the beginning of the year,” it pointed out.

It becomes more urgent then to “work double time” to enact economic measures in various stages of Congress and Executive implementation, it said.

On legislative measures, the organizations especially recommend the urgent approval of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), as this will help attract investments and “create significant and favorable impact on the cash flow” of recovering MSMEs, which have suffered heavily this crisis.

“Further delay on its enactment will worsen the adverse economic consequences of over two-year investor uncertainty since the bill was initially discussed,” they warned.

Also recommended is the swift approval of the Accelerated Recovery and Investments
Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) and the COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) bills “which will provide fresh impetus to keep the economy afloat and positioned for a solid economic rebound.”

These bills are necessary in providing essential support for critically impacted farmers and fisherfolk, small businesses, tourism, transportation, and other industries, the group explained.

Also crucial are skills and education, infrastructure, environment and agri-related bills to help institutionalize reforms and accelerate developments in these sectors.

The letter listed some of the priority bills as amendments to the Public Services Act, Magna Carta for MSMEs, and PPA Charter; Open Access in Data Transmission Act, Warehouse Receipts Act and Apprenticeship Training System Act.

On the executive side, concerned government agencies were urged to undertake the following:

● implement the National ID system to help facilitate distribution/availment of social protection programs among other benefits;

● fund the continuing implementation and maintenance of TradeNet, the government’s online trading facilitation portal, to lower cost and ease document processing;

● facilitate implementation of the ATA Carnet system to enable enterprises to access more foreign markets;

● prioritize farm/fishing areas-to-market roads and agri- and aqua-culture infrastructure in the Build Build Build priority projects;

● expand participation of private sector groups in planning and formulating guidelines on the lifting of ECQ that won’t compromise lives and livelihood;

● set up quarantine facilities in strategic locations in municipalities and cities;

● implement full computerization of government processes such as at the Food and Drug Administration and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to lower cost and promote ease in doing business;

● attend urgently to pending issues on regulated chemicals by the PNP for trade facilitation;

● increase export promotion and MSME funds to help in the recovery of exporters and MSMEs; and

● accelerate automation and integration of business permitting and licensing systems (BPLS), which has become more crucial amid COVID-19 and physical distancing

“We are confident that these measures, if expeditiously enacted, will significantly help in the joint government and private sector objectives of recovery towards higher and sustained economic performance,” said the letter signed by Ambassador Benedicto V. Yujuico, president of PCCI; Edgardo G. Lacson, chairman of ECOP; and Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of PHILEXPORT.

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