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PH Congress to prioritize bills pushing trade facilitation

ID-100259652Several bills focused on transport and trade facilitation are part of the Lower House agenda for passage in the 16th Philippine Congress.

The measures include amending the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines through the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), the charters of the Philippine Ports Authority and Maritime Industry Authority, cabotage law, the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution on foreign ownership and equity, and the Foreign Investment Act.

Also for approval are bills reforming the aviation sector through an Open Skies Policy and enacting an Anti-Trust Law or Fair Competition Law.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr said the Lower House will concentrate on institutionalizing policy reforms that will maximize gains from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community (AEC).

“Integrating into the AEC is not only about opening up but also pushing for good governance by addressing in particular the key institutional weaknesses faced by the citizenry at large,” Belmonte said.

He continued that as a region, ASEAN member-states have made progress in implementing their commitments to the AEC.

The solon noted the achievements made towards the free flow of goods and services and regional trade facilitation. He underscored how duties have been eliminated for 99.2% of tariff lines in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, while duties for 97.5% of all tariff lines have been reduced to about 0% to 5% in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

However, measures covering trade-customs modernization, standardization and conformity, services liberalization, investment promotion, and ratification of transportation agreements have yet to be fully implemented.

“This is due to delays in the ratification of signed ASEAN-wide agreements and their alignment with national domestic laws, as well as delays in the implementation of specific initiatives,” he explained.

Marikina Representative Romero “Miro” Quimbo, in a presentation at last week’s 40th Philippine Business Conference, said the committee he chairs, Ways and Means, will pass the CMTA in a hearing on October 28. The bill will then be sent on to the Senate.

Upon instruction from Feliciano, Quimbo said the Lower House is prioritizing all legislation geared toward preparing the Philippines for ASEAN economic integration and lowering the cost of doing business to raise the country’s competitiveness. – Roumina Pablo

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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