House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Thursday rallied support from members of the US-ASEAN Business Council for President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s vision and programs, assuring them that Congress has been working very hard with the Chief Executive to introduce reforms and attract more foreign investors into the country.
Speaking during the joint virtual meeting via Zoom, Romualdez assured senior business executives that lawmakers have been exerting all efforts to ease doing business in the Philippines and make a more conducive business environment that would foster economic growth.
“Our President has laid out the survival and recovery roadmap for us to consider. We in the House of Representatives, are in full support of this plan and are ready to face the challenges spelled out by our President. As partners in nation-building, we readily commit ourselves to help realize the concrete plans and approve the proposed legislative measures provided by the President,” Romualdez, the chairman of the House Committee on Rules, told the members of the US-ASEAN Business Council 2020 Virtual Philippines Business Mission.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chair of House Committee on Ways and Means, and AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, an economist and chairperson of the House Committee on Economic Affairs, also attended the virtual meeting as resource persons.
“I pray that you, my friends, will also lend your support to the President’s vision. May you continue to be with us every step of the way as partners in our recovery efforts. With you as our partners in nation-building, I know we will not fail,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez recognized the huge contribution of multinational companies, especially in the government’s continuing efforts to reboot and rebound the Philippine economy from months of devastation caused by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning (Thursday), knowing fully well the contributions that the Council has provided in strengthening the partnership between the Philippine government and foreign business groups. Truly, I am delighted to see all of you, still hale and hearty, despite the public health crisis gripping the globe today,” Romualdez said.
“I am given the task to help walk you through with key administration priorities following President Duterte’s latest State of the Nation Address, as well as initiatives aimed at ensuring the country’s competitiveness and resiliency. You are in luck, my friends, as I hope I may be able to juxtapose the SONA priorities with the administration priorities based on the 2020 National Expenditure Program, which the Executive Department submitted to the House of Representatives last Monday, August 24,” Romualdez said.
For over 35 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for United States corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations, serving as the leading voice of the U.S. private sector in promoting mutually beneficial trade and investment relationships between the US and Southeast Asia.
Some of the attendees during the US-ASEAN Business Council include Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez, Anne Corominas of PepsiCo, Ben Kamarck of Novartis, Aftab Ahmed of Citigroup Inc., The Coca-Cola Company, FedEx, Netflix, Dell Technologies Inc., Honeywell, United Parcel Service, PMFTC, Inc., and other multinational firms.
Romualdez said President Duterte has spelled out in his last State of the Nation Address 21 priority legislative measures that he wanted to be approved by the 18th Congress within the last two years of his term.
“Five of these measures deal directly with the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Romualdez said.
He said the COVID-19 response bills include the recovery plan called “Bayanihan to Recover As One” Act and the bill providing incentives to financial institutions to sell their non-performing assets affected by the pandemic.
The House leader said the “Bayanihan to Recover as One” Act, which allocates P165.5 billion for social amelioration and economic stimulus, has already been ratified by the Senate and the House of Representatives and is awaiting the signature by the President.
“Also included in the COVID response measures are bills that seek to establish a Medical Reserve Corps and create a National Disease Prevention and Management Authority to prepare for future outbreaks. The President also wants to protect online consumers and sellers alike after the industry started booming when lockdowns were imposed across the country due to COVID-19,” said Romualdez.
Romualdez said the top priority measure of Congress is the timely passage of the proposed P4.5 trillion General Appropriations Bill for 2021.
He said the President’s 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP) is higher than this year’s P4.1 trillion budget by 9.9 percent and equivalent to 21.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
The House leader said the proposed 2021 national budget aims to sustain government efforts towards effectively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing government spending on improving the country’s healthcare systems, ensuring food security, increasing investments in public and digital infrastructure, and helping communities cope and prevail in these trying times.
“The Executive Department has adopted the theme: ‘Reset, Rebound and Recover: Investing for Resiliency and Sustainability. This is consistent with the administration’s goal of saving lives and protecting communities while making different sectors of the economy stronger and more agile,” he said.
For the “Reset” component, Romualdez said the 2021 national budget will prioritize health-related COVID-19 response programs to address the continuing threat of the pandemic.
“Hence, a big chunk of the budget will be allocated to the National Health Insurance Program, P71.4 billion; Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients, P17.3 billion; and Human Resources for Health Program, P16.6 billion,” Romualdez said.
For the “Rebound” component, he said the national government will continue to advance the “Build, Build, Build” Program.
“A total of P1.107 trillion for Public Infrastructure Program is embedded in the proposed budget for strategic infrastructure development and to create jobs and catalyze business activities all over the country,” he said.