Economic bills among Senate priorities

Published by rudy Date posted on April 13, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Senators will prioritize economic bills and those seeking to amend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and the Energy Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) when Congress resumes session today.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said these bills are still in the committee level awaiting final committee reports.

“We will also prioritize economic bills that will stimulate the economy and those which will provide social safety nets to our people amid the global economic crisis,” he said.

Zubiri said the Senate is also awaiting the bicameral reports on bills seeking to amend the Pag-IBIG charter, the Real Estate Investment Companies Act, and the Mt. Banahaw and Mt. Cristobal Protected Areas Act.

“We would like to finish as many bills as possible in the seven weeks of session and before Congress goes on sine die adjournment on June 5,” he said.

“I expect that when the 3rd regular session opens on July 27 it would be election fever already and legislators focus will be diverted to the 2010 elections.”

Other economic bills pending in Congress:

• The condonation of delinquent contributions to SSS,
• The simplified net income system,
• The Paglaum Fund for the rehabilitation of Panay island from the ravages of typhoon “Frank,” and
• The Mechanization of Agricultural Sector.

The following bills have been tackled in the plenary before Congress went on Lenten recess:

• Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law; and
• Picture–based Warnings on Tobacco Products.

Tax exemption

Sen. Francis Escudero insists that the law exempts minimum wage earners from income tax for salaries earned during the whole of 2008.

In debunking the government’s claim the tax exemption covers only half of last year, Escudero said Republic Act 9504 is a piece of social legislation aimed at alleviating the plight of the poor in these times of economic hardship.

“A contrary interpretation defeats the spirit behind the enactment of this law,” he said.

Escudero, who sponsored the bill that became RA 9504 as chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, said it was particularly designed to aid Filipinos from the low income group, particularly laborers.

“Their already meager salary and wage should now be exempted from income taxation for the whole of 2008 as it was Congress’s intention that the law be made retroactive starting January 1, 2008,” he said.

Escudero said when RA 9504 took effect July 6 last year, it exempted minimum wage earners from paying tax on income earned during the calendar year 2008.

If the Bureau of Internal Revenue insists on its erroneous interpretation of the law, the Senate ways and means committee will be compelled to bring the issue before the proper court, he added.

RA 9504 also increased the personal exemption for individuals as follows:

• Single — from P20,000 to P50,000;

• Head of family — from P25,000 to P50,000; • Each married individual — from P32,000 to P50,000; and

• Each qualified dependent (not exceeding four) — from P8,000 to P25,000.

Anti-trust law

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has proposed an anti-trust law to penalize unfair trade and anti-competitive practices to improve consumer welfare and foster sound business ethics.

In a statement, Santiago, Senate committee on economic affairs chairwoman, said laws are inadequate to stop anti-competitive practices and behavior in the market.

“Despite the large number of laws, competition has not been fully established nor enhanced in all sectors of the economy,” she said.

“These laws have been hardly used or implemented as may been seen in the lack of cases litigated in court.”

Santiago’s bill seeks to prevent undertakings, corporations and businesses from distorting competition in the marketplace.

It aims to sanction cartels, the abuse of market power by monopolies, and the unfair competition brought about by a merger, acquisition, or concentration of enterprises. –Christina Mendez, Philippine Star

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