Opinion

Final challenge

Final challenge

The final year of the Duterte administration will remain focused on battling the COVID-19 crisis, especially with the highly contagious Delta variant now spreading and threatening to derail economic recovery efforts. As part of pandemic safety protocols, physical attendance has been strictly limited at President Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address today, which he intends to deliver as usual at the joint session of Congress at the Batasang Pambansa complex.

While confronting the still raging pandemic, politicians are also busy preparing for the upcoming general elections and the leadership change in 2022. With the limited time left, the House of Representatives has promised to prioritize the passage of the five remaining measures in President Duterte’s legislative agenda.

These are the measures for the creation of the Philippine Virology Institute and the Centers for Disease Control as well as amendments to the Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016. Also in the priority list are the Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act and National Housing Development Act.

Congress has passed several economic stimulus and pandemic assistance measures since last year, the latest of which were CREATE or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentive for Enterprises Act as well as the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer or FIST Act and Bayanihan 2.

Business groups, however, are hoping that even with the limited time left, the President can still push his congressional allies to pass measures that will make the country more attractive to investments. These include amendments to the Public Services Act, Retail Trade Act, Foreign Investment Act, Build Operate Transfer Act and Telecommuting Act.

Also being pushed by businessmen are the passage of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Package 4 (Passive Income Financial Taxes), Open Access in Data Transmission Act, Better Internet law, Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act, Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act, Creative Industries law, E-government law, the National Transportation Safety law and Water Sector Reform Act.

That’s a considerable to-do list, given the time constraints and the COVID emergency. The measures, however, can make the country a more attractive place for job-generating investments, and help prevent the country from once again becoming Asia’s basket case, as many economic analysts are predicting. This is President Duterte’s main challenge in his final year: amid the COVID crisis, the country cannot become the sick man of Asia.