House of Representatives

MANILA – The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to call for a special session to pass the “Bayanihan to Recover as One” bill or the “Bayanihan II.”

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, panel chair, said Bayanihan II proposal would contain a stimulus package that “responds to the most pressing needs” of the country amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“This is a request we have made strongly to the President over the past weeks, and we are prepared to work during the special session to get a viable compromise passed,” Salceda said.

Salceda noted that the House of Representatives has been preparing for negotiations with the Executive branch regarding the funding requirements of the stimulus package that can be enacted.

“Time is of the essence in this matter, and we can confidently assure the people that the House is ready to get this done quickly,” he said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Executive branch is expected to call for a special session once the negotiations between the Department of Finance and Congress are completed.

“Halos tapos na po ang negosasyon sa panig ng Ehekutibo at ng Kongreso, at maisusulong na po ang Bayanihan II (The negotiation between the Executive and Congress is almost over, and we can finally push for Bayanihan II),” Roque said in a media interview.

“At ibig sabihin dahil halos tapos na ang kanilang kasunduan, hindi po magtatagal ay hihingi na po ng special session ang Ehekutibo para maisabatas itong Bayanihan II Package (That means, if a compromise is almost reached, then it won’t take long before the Executive calls for a special session to enact Bayanihan II Package),” Roque added.

Salceda said it is also time to pass the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE), which has already hurdled the lower chamber and now awaits Senate approval.

He said under the CREATE bill, the country will have a low basic corporate income tax (CIT) rate of 20 percent, a standard menu of incentives, and a bonus menu of incentives for the best investors.

“I have always underscored the willingness of the House to adopt a fiscally-sustainable Senate version without the need for bicameral proceedings,” he said.

Salceda also vowed to enact tax reforms necessary to make government borrowing sustainable.

He said his committee has prepared proposals that can raise PHP591 billion in five years, which would exceed, by many multiples, the funding needed to amortize due to Covid-19 loan payments over the same five years.

“I thank President Duterte for heeding our call to be open to borrowing to finance priority measures, especially those that will directly help our right against Covid-19. Funding more contact tracing has been something I have always backed Finance Secretary Dominguez on, so we are ready to adopt a package that funds it,” he said. (PNA)