MARCOS OUTLINES PLANS, SEEKS CONGRESS SUPPORT, Proposes 19 bills for better gov’t, economy

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief
QUEZON CITY — For the first time in his term, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. addressed the joint session of Congress on July 25 and came out with a definitive plans and programs for the country’s growth and support to the people in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) considered as a preview of his six-year term.
As a priority, Marcos vowed to ease the debt burden of Filipino farmers so they can improve farm productivity, help lower food prices, and create jobs.
At the same time, Marcos called on Congress to enact at least 19 measures to help the people and boost the economy. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and other Congress leaders immediately vowed to support the proposed measures. (See related stories)
In his first and widely applauded SONA, Marcos said he will issue an executive order imposing a year-long moratorium on the payment of land amortization and interest payments for land reform beneficiaries which he said was already included in Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act approved at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marcos, who is also Secretary of Agriculture, also vowed to increase agricultural production to address high food prices.

He said the Department of Agricuture (DA) has finalized a plan to increase production through financial and technical aid for farmers during the next planting season.

 “A moratorium will give the farmers the ability to channel their resources in developing their farms, maximizing their capacity to produce, and propel the growth of our economy,” he said.

Marcos also called on Congress to do its share on easing the debt burden of farmers.

“Congress must also pass a law that will emancipate the agrarian reform beneficiaries from the agrarian reform debt burden, thereby amending Section 26 of Republic Act 6657,” he said.

“In this law, the loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries with unpaid amortization and interest shall be condoned.

“Agrarian reform beneficiaries who are still to receive their land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program shall receive it without any obligation to pay any amortization,” he added.

If passed into law, this debt condonation would involve P58.125 billion, benefiting 654,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries in 1.18 million hectares of awarded lands.

Marcos also said 52,000 hectares of unused agricultural lands would be distributed to war veterans and their families, as well as retirees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

College graduates specializing in agriculture will also be given this land, Marcos said.

“The call of the times is for the infusion of fresh and new blood in the agricultural sector. We need a new breed of farmers equipped with modern agricultural technology to be able to engage and sustain scientific farming that will not only increase farm yields but also resilience in the face of climate change,” he added.

Under his administration, Marcos said loans and financial assistance for farmers and fishers will be institutionalized. Agricultural producers will also be assisted in the modernization of farms.

A scientific approach will also be used to increase agricultural output, including technologies that will make products resilient to climate change.

 Marcos, at the same time, called on Congress to legislate 19 measures, including the revival of mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) course, the rightsizing of government, budget modernization, creation of a Medical Reserve Corps, National Disease Prevention Management Authority, the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control, among others.

 Marcos said the proposed Budget Modernization law will institutionalize the Cash-based Budgeting System (CBS), which was adopted by virtue of Executive Order 91 signed in 2019, to strengthen fiscal discipline in the allocation and use of budget resources.

Marcos also asked Congress to support the proposed E-Government Act which provides for the establishment of the E-Government Master Plan which shall cover all e-government services and processes.

The proposed E-Governance Act, on the other hand, aims to promote the use of Internet, Intranet, and other Information and Communications Technology to provide opportunities for citizens.

Marcos also sought the passage of measures creating the Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR).

The proposed VIP, he said, would serve as an attached agency of then Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

On the other hand, the proposed Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) will be adopted as the strategic framework for national water management, policymaking and planning, once the DWR is created, Marcos said.

Marcos also called for the creation of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), which will be attached to the Department of Health (DOH), are also among his government’s priorities.

The MRC, which will be under the Health and Emergency Management Bureau (HEMB) of the DOH, shall be composed of licensed physicians, medical students who have completed their four years of medical course, graduates of medicine, registered nurses, and licensed allied health professionals.

Marcos  expressed optimism that the lawmakers would back the Tax Package 3: Valuation Reform Bill and the Tax Package 4: Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (PIFITA).

The Valuation Reform bill seeks the establishment of real property values and valuation standards across the country, as well as the development of Real Property Information System that provides for the database of all real property transactions and declarations in the country.

The proposed PIFITA, on the other hand, aims to introduce reforms to the taxation of capital income and financial services by redesigning the financial sector taxation into “simpler, fairer, more efficient and a revenue neutral tax system.”

The other priority measures of the Marcos administration include the proposed Internet Transaction Act or E-Commerce Law, as well as the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE).

The E-Commerce Law aims the establishment of an effective regulation of commercial activities through the internet or electronic means, Marcos said.

The GUIDE bill, meantime, seeks to provide financial assistance to distressed enterprises critical to economic recovery through programs and initiatives that will be implemented by the Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines and Philippine Guarantee Corporation.

Marcos also pushed for a measure introducing amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law, in an effort to improve the implementation of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Program and align the desired outputs and outcomes with the strategic development targets of the country.

The amendments, he said, would address the ambiguities in the existing law and the bottlenecks and challenges affecting the implementation of the PPP Program.

Marcos added that amending the BOT Law would create a “more competitive and enabling environment” for PPP.