Friday, 24 July 2009

Business groups bare wish lists for Arroyo’s final SONA


THE BUSINESS community wants President Gloria M. Arroyo to promise continued infrastructure spending and also rally her allies in Congress to pass 12 key bills when she delivers her last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, an informal poll of four organizations revealed.

Several groups also expressed concern over the House of Representatives’ plans to amend the 1987 constitution, with one particularly urging the President to dissuade supporters from doing so before her term ends next year.

"I hope she will touch on infrastructure. We expect a very lively discussion on this," Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Edgardo G. Lacson told reporters yesterday.

Mr. Lacson lauded the government for its performance so far as around 40% of the infrastructure projects in its midyear development plan had reportedly been completed.

"And the fact that we are not in a recession is another good indication. Peace and order is still under control ... and we have [a] noisy democracy," he added.

Mrs. Arroyo, Mr. Lacson said, should also push for the approval of 12 bills business groups listed at a Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting in June.

These are the Department of Information and Communications, Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives, Free Patent to Residential Lands, Pre-Need Code, Freedom of Access to Information, Real Estate Investment Trust, Anti-Smuggling, Amendment of the Customs Brokers Act, Electricity Rate Reduction, Uniform Franchise Tax on Distribution Utilities, OECD Tax Compliance Amendment, and the Land Use measures.

European Chamber of commerce of the Philippines Executive Vice-President Henry J. Schumacher echoed this yesterday, saying: "What I would like to see is she will outline reform legislation. The business community has provided a list."

American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Robert M. Sears, for his part, called on the President to consider earlier recommendations on luring investments.

Mr. Sears, in a letter addressed to Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita dated June 30, 2009 and made available to BusinessWorld yesterday, reiterated recommendations that include "passing reform legislation" and "building modern infrastructure faster," among others.

"[And] we encourage more aggressive removal of obstacles to competitiveness...," he said.

The Filipino groups went on to offer views on how the President should address the House’s plans for charter change.

"We expect her to give a review of her performance but doesn’t mean as much to us as a statement to relinquish power and not allow amendments to the constitution before June 30, 2010 [when her term ends]," Makati Business Club Executive Director Alberto A. Lim said.

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