Month: March 2015

Republic Act No. 10667: Philippine Competition Act

The passage of the Fair Competition Act into law will eliminate monopolies, cartels and other unfair business practices that lead to high prices of goods and services.

Senator Bam Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, made this pronouncement during his sponsorship speech for Senate Bill No. 2282 or the Fair Competition Act of 2014.

“If this bill will be enacted into law, rice cartels that caused the sudden rice of prices will cease to exist,” the senator said, adding that President Aquino himself called for the elimination of this illegal practice to drive down prices of goods and other products.

Aquino said the bill safeguards the welfare of businesses, large and small, and protects honest, hard-working entrepreneurs against abuse of dominance and position, and other unfair practices that put both Filipino businesses and their consumers at risk.

“The Fair Competition Act, moreover, promotes a culture of healthy competition that inspires ingenuity, creativity, and innovation in addressing market needs,” added Aquino, whose Senate Bill No. 1027 or the Philippine Fair Competition Act of 2013 was among the measures consolidated under Senate Bill No. 2282.

In his speech, Aquino said the Fair Competition Act of 2014 will, among other things, promote and enhance economic efficiency and competition and ensure that industrial concentration would not limit economic power to a few.

“It will also prohibit anti-competitive agreements and abuses of dominant position that distort, manipulate, or constrict the operations of markets in the Philippines,” the senator stressed.

Aquino added that the push for inclusive growth would be much easier with a help of a competition policy that gives entrepreneurs and small businesses the capability to compete against big businesses.

“I’m hoping this competition policy, if passed, can support our micro, small and medium enterprises, let them grow into larger enterprises and provide more jobs to our countrymen,” Aquino emphasized.

At the same time, Aquino allayed fears that big businesses with high market share will be affected by the competition policy.

“This is not against companies that have high market share. It’s against companies with high market share and who are using that position to abuse their powers or abuse smaller players in the market,” he explained.

The Philippines is one of few developing countries that do not have a valid competition policy.

In the past two decades, Congress tackled several competition bills but lawmakers failed to find common ground on key provisions, hampering their passage into law.

“The Fair Competition Act is both pro-poor and pro-business.”




Republic Act. No. 10645 – Expanded Senior Citizens Act



Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

SECTION 1. Section 5, sub-paragraph h(2) of Republic Act No. 7432, as amended, is hereby further amended to read as follows:

“SEC. 5. Government Assistance. – The government shall provide the following:

“x x x

“(h) Additional Government Assistance

“(1) x x x

“(2) Mandatory PhilHealth Coverage

“All senior citizens shall be covered by the national health insurance program of PhilHealth. Funds necessary to ensure the enrollment $f all senior citizens not currently covered by any existing category shall be sourced from the National Health Insurance Fund of PhilHealth from proceeds of Republic Act No. 10351, in accordance with the pertinent laws and regulations.

“(3) x x x.”

SEC. 2. Repealing Clause. – All laws, decrees, executive orders, rules and regulations, or parts thereof which are inconsistent with this Act are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly.

SEC. 3. Effectivity. – This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in the Official Gazette or ill at least two (2) newspapers of general circulation.



Senate Bill No. 1030: Microenterprise Development Institutions Act of 2013

In all parts of the country, micro enterprises comprise the bulk of business enterprises in the country. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) estimates that, as of 2011, at least 99.6% of all businesses in the Philippines were classified as micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), while ” the remaining 0.4% were large enterprises. Of the total number of MSMEs, at least 91.0% were micro enterprises, with asset sizes not greater than Three Million Pesos (P3 million) and with up to 10 employees.

At their very core, micro enterprises enable poor families to undertake entrepreneurial activities to meet their minimum basic needs, including income generation. However, one major barrier for micro entrepreneurs is their lack of access to credit or capital. One way for them to access such funding is through micro finance.

“Micro finance”, as is defined in this bill, “refers to the provision of a broad range of financial services exclusively for the poor to improve the asset base of households and expand their access to savings and enable them to raise their income levels and living standards.” Therefore, micro finance is that much-needed first step between subsistence and sustainability, enabling the poor to startup businesses that can lift themselves out of poverty.

However, the micro finance sector has yet to be acknowledged by government as an integral partner in poverty alleviation. Moreover, the unique structure and purpose of micro finance institutions (MFls) have yet to be recognized as different from those of purely commercial enterprises.

Therefore, we are proposing a Microenterprise Development Strategy that is embodied in the Micro enterprise Institutions Development (“MicroDev”) Act. This measure seeks to provide an enabling policy environment and support for MicroDevs through appropriate tax reforms. It also aims to develop a social reform program that will empower the poor, aid them in managing financial risks, and, in doing so, expand access to micro finance services, such as: microcredit, microsavings, health care, and others. This Act also opens up access to a broad range of financial, business, and other human development services. The ultimate goal of the MicroDev Act is to lift people out of poverty and enable them to live more productive, self-sufficient lives.



Senate Bill No. 1031: Pagkaing Pinoy Para Sa Mga Bata

“You cannot feed the mind on an empty stomach.” This is a truth that millions of Filipinos know and feel all too well. Every day, millions of Filipino children trek to school, underfed and undernourished, yet expected to fully absorb the lessons of the day.

In a study called “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012”, conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a total of 16 million Filipinos were considered undernourished 2010 to 2012, even as the number of chronically undernourished people dropped in all other Southeast Asian countries. Despite our growing economy, there are more underfed people in the Philippines today than there were two decades ago.

Meanwhile, another recent study on “the role of early childhood nourishment and health in connection with human capital accumulation”, published by Dartmouth University in 2012, revealed that the long-term detrimental effects of childhood hunger have a greater impact on school children than the effects of substandard schooling, infrastructure, classrooms, and textbooks.

This is perhaps one of the main reasons why Filipino children continue to lag behind our Asian neighbors in standardized tests. How can we expect them to do well in school when we have not given their brains the proper nourishment and fuel for the tasks that lie ahead of them?

Thus, the proposed “Pagkaing Pinoy para sa Batang Pinoy” bill seeks to alleviate childhood malnutrition in the Philippines through a feeding program for public kindergarten and elementary school children. It will promote the health of children who are most in need, by providing regular and free access to nutritious food within a safe and clean school and community environment.

The benefits of the bill do not end there. To enhance the social value of this proposed measure, the feeding program will utilize, when possible and available, locally-sourced and locally-produced food products in order also support local farmers and farming communities, and thus provide direct support to local agricultural communities. By providing a regular market for the products of local farmers and small entrepreneurs, this feeding program will help address not only child malnutrition but also poverty in the countryside.

The bill will entail partnerships with the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Education (DepEd), and local government units.



Senate Bill No. 1029: Social Value Act of 2013

A common practice in government procurement, guided by Philippine procurement laws, is to consider price as the major criterion for awarding government purchases and contracts. However, given the current social climate, there is now a need to consider other factors that enable a product or service to deliver adequate or even added value to both the purchaser and to the community at large.

Thus, we wish to introduce the concept of “social value” as an additional criterion governing Philippine government procurement.

“Social value,” as we define it in this measure, “refers to the additional benefit to, society of procuring a good or service, over and above the direct benefit and value of the good or service to the procuring entity. Additional benefits may include support for poor communities or marginalized groups, advancement of human rights and social justice” protection of the environment, and community development.”

At the root of this concept is the recognition that government funds should be allocated to products, services, and programs that offer the greatest good, at the best value. Therefore, when evaluating suppliers for government purchases, contracts, and projects, purchasers must look beyond price and also consider such factors as quality, production practices, and even the impact that these practices have on a larger community.

Legislature is thus urged to pass this proposed “Social Value Act”. By redefining the concept of “social value” and “value for money,” we can enable the State to maximize benefits for society and also drive up service quality and inclusive growth.



Republic Act No. 10742: Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015

Our heroes and elders have always touted the Filipino youth as the “hope of the nation.” In recent years, however, a number of issues have plagued the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), prompting us to take a closer look at the way youth representation in the Philippines is designed. Many have decried the alleged “corruption” in the SK system, saying that this structure has become a “breeding ground” of “traditional politics.”

The SK Reform Act seeks to uphold youth representation by returning to the true spirit of volunteerism and taking youth participation away from the clutches of partisan politics. It is anchored on the twin beliefs that youth organizations are a potent force in nation-building, and that the power of young Filipinos is strongest when they work with people who share their values and goals, and in an environment of teamwork and collaboration.







Senate Bill No. 1091: Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom of 2013

In today’s increasingly wired and interconnected society, Internet connectivity has become more than Just a luxury, and certainly more than just a tool for the educated and the elite. It is essential in the provision of basic government and private sector services, in sharing educational information to our students, in the conduct of everyday business, and even in gathering real-time, life-saving information.

For instance, we saw during the onslaught of Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009-and in the natural disasters following these-how the Philippine online community worked together from behind computers and mobile phones to send crucial information about flooded areas, missing persons, areas in need of immediate rescue and relief, fund raising efforts, and many others. In an age of climate change and harsher weather conditions, being connected and “in the know” could spell the difference between life and death.

Internet-enabled platforms and services have likewise given birth to new industries, which in turn have opened up hundreds of thousands of jobs for ordinary Filipinos. The Business Process Outsourcing (SPO) and Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) industries, for example, would not be able to survive without the infrastructure for secure Internet connectivity. Likewise, a growing number of freelancers, start-up entrepreneurs, online marketers, and the like have been able to find gainful employment and livelihood thanks to Internet technology. Even loan services and fundraising efforts have been powered by the Internet, making it more accessible for groups with great ideas to get the funding support that they need.

Beyond these, the Internet and social media have become integral to ensuring transparency, accountability, and good governance not only in the Philippines but also in many corners of the world. For many, the Internet represents a lifeline to citizen watchdog groups and media organizations that shine the light on truth where it is most needed. Internet-enabled platforms have become complementary tools for democracy, allowing for debate and discourse, the free exchange of ideas, and open access to public servants. Moreover, developments in the social media space have made it possible for government to engage with its constituents on a one-to-one level, bringing government service directly in the hands of hands of the people.

It is for these reasons, and many more, that we seek to support the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF), in order to push for universal access to the Internet, the freedom and the ability to access public information online, freedom of speech, the right to create without fear of intellectual property infringement, and many other rights that are afforded Filipinos as citizens of a democratic republic. Specifically, we wish to push for a provision that makes free WIFI (also: wireless local areas network or WLAN) access mandatory for designated public spaces within local government units (LGUs), such as city or municipal halls, and the like. Public WIFI access will ensure that the Internet and other digital or social media platforms may be used by LGUs and their citizens for such functions as: the provision of basic government services (e.g., business registration, the accessing of government data online, etc.); real-time monitoring and disaster response coordination during times of natural and man-made disasters; data gathering, transmission, and monitoring during local elections; online training and capacity-building, and many others.

Just as the MCPIF upholds many of our civil liberties, it likewise protects citizens’ privacy online and also outlines the limitations of Internet use. For instance, as defined in Part I Section 2 (f):

“The Internet has the potential to become a theater of war, and that ICT can be developed into weapons of mass destruction; thus, consistent with the national interest and the Constitution, the State shall pursue a policy of no first use of cyberweapons against foreign nations, and shall implement plans, policies, programs, measures, and mechanisms to provide cyberdefense of Philippine Internet and ICT infrastructure resources;”

The MCPIF also tackles such issues as hacking, Internet libel, hate speech, child pornography, cybercrime, human trafficking, and a host of other issues.

Finally, to exercise jurisdiction over the Philippines’ ICT sector and the mapping out of the country’s ICT road map and systems, the MCPIF proposes the establishment of a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), which, as defined here, “shall be the primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, regulating and administrative entity of the executive branch of the government that will plan, promote and help develop the country’s ICT sector and ensure reliable and cost-efficient communications facilities, other multimedia infrastructure and services.”

The world is changing at breakneck speed, and we believe that a piece of legislature such as the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom will enable us to manage the winds of change.



Senate Bill No. 1356: People’s Fund Act of 2013

At a time when public funding is under intense scrutiny, when the Filipino people are crying out for full transparency and accountability, and when government is being called on to implement massive reforms, how can we ensure that it is the PEOPLE of the Philippines who ultimately have a say on where public funds are being spent?

The People’s Fund seeks to revolutionize public budgeting and funding by giving the taxpayers of the Philippines the choice on where a portion of their hard-earned money should go.

It allows an individual taxpayer to allocate five percent (5%) of his or her income tax to be allocated for any of the following:

1. An accredited charity or civil society organization;

2. A priority national or local government project;

3. A legitimate political party.

Under this bill, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) shall establish the mechanism that would enable individual taxpayers to select beneficiaries upon filing of their annual income tax returns.

Meanwhile, an inter-agency committee led by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) shall determine the eligibility of respective organizations, and shall likewise set the conditions, guidelines, and reporting requirements for the receipt and use of the funds by the benefitting organizations.

This gives the Filipino public greater control over how their monies are spent, ultimately empowering Filipinos to support institutions and initiatives that they deem worthy.

In view of the foregoing, the approval of this bill is earnestly sought.



Senate Bill No. 1457: Paskong Pinoy Bill

In an economy where growth is high but where unemployment, poverty, and hunger are equally high, it is imperative for Government to create the environment for inclusive growth. We must ensure that the fruits of growth flow out-not just “trickle down” -to as many Filipinos as possible, reaching especially those in the countryside and rural areas.

To achieve this, we must be willing to innovate and pave the way for opportunities to spring up across our diverse and culturally rich archipelago. One of the most effective ways to do this is through local tourism.

According to a report released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) in May 2013, the “tourism direct gross value added” to the Philippine economy, as of 2011, was estimated at Php571.3 billion. Meanwhile, the tourism sector’s contribution to the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GOP) in 2011 was 5.9 percent, slightly higher than the ten-year average of 5.8 percent. Moreover, the data also showed that the tourism sector generated 3.8 million jobs in 2011, or 10.3 percent of all jobs in the Philippines for that year.

It is clear that tourism has a direct and positive impact on the national economy, local industries, and the employment and livelihood of millions of Filipinos.

With this in mind, one of our proposed solutions is to institutionalize the observance of long holidays from December 25 to January 1 every year as special non-working days. Through the “Paskong Pinoy Bill“, we aim to encourage local tourism and spending, thereby channeling much-needed resources to various parts of the Philippines.

A longer Christmas holiday can help spur the economy on several levels. First, it encourages families to spend more time and money on recreational activities such as dining, shopping, and leisure, thereby boosting the revenue potential of local businesses. Next, it encourages local travel, boosting growth in the local travel and hospitality industry and also opening up opportunities for communities who thrive on tourism income. Even farmers, fishermen, boatmen, vendors, and many other micro enterprises will benefit from having tourism income flow to their respective communities. Next, it may also encourage an influx of foreign visitors to the Philippines, knowing that the country’s already-festive Christmas season will be amplified by more recreational and tourism-oriented activities.

This bill also recognizes the Filipino value of love for family, encouraging more Filipino families to spend time together during the long break.

The bill also recognizes, however, that the private sector may be concerned by possible productivity losses during this period. In this regard, the bill also proposes that the last Saturday before December 25 and the first Saturday after January 1 be considered regular workdays, in. order to make up for the two (2) working days that will be affected by the proposed break.

In view of the foregoing, the early approval of this bill is earnestly sought.



Senate Bill No. 1458: Study Now Pay Later Plan of 2013

One of the enduring legacies of the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr. is the “Studv Now, Pay Later” Program. It was designed to give every Filipino access to tertiary education, with the belief that this will enable more Filipinos to get better jobs with better incomes, and help them get ahead in life.

Thirty years after Ninoy Aquino’s death, as we push for inclusive growth for every Filipino, we also seek to strengthen the Study Now, Pay Later Program to ensure that every Filipino who wishes to take up tertiary-level studies will be able to do so.

The strengthened Study Now, Pay Later Program (SNPLP) proposes that an Education loan Fund be established to make zero-interest loans available to eligible student beneficiaries to cover tuition and other school fees and education-related expenses towards the completion of college degree courses or vocational and technical courses.

Under our proposed program, the Education Loan Fund shall be administered by an Education Loan Fund Board headed by the chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Among its functions, the Board shall be responsible for establishing systems for the following:

(1) The effective disbursement and collection of loan payments, including but not limited to: arranging for the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) to act as the authorized and official collection agencies for loan repayments; and

(2) Proper tracking and monitoring loan recipients, including but not limited into entering an agreement with various concerned government agencies including the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), GSIS, SSS, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), and the Credit Information Corporation, as well as private and public banks and intermediaries, credit information bureaus, and other financial institutions, inclusive of investigating and checking the whereabouts of loan recipients, and setting up mechanisms for blacklisting of defaulting borrowers in applications for loans, credit cards, and other credit facilities.

These mechanisms seek to make it easier and more convenient for beneficiaries to pay for their loans while making it more efficient for government to collect loan payments. These are meant to ensure that the Study Now, Pay Later Plan can become a long-term program of the government with benefits that are extended to even more beneficiaries.

At present, the government’s Study Now Pay Later program for the school year (Z013-Z014), covers 538 beneficiaries nationwide with an average loan of Php 60,000 per qualified student per year.

Since the program was re-Iaunched in 1999, at least 16,907 students have already received student loans amounting to a total of Php217 million. However, the CHED reports that, as of December 2012, only Php26.8 million or 12.36 percent of these loans have been repaid.

Thus, it becomes imperative that we strengthen and improve the system, especially on the loan repayment side, to ensure that funds are ploughed back to the government to give more students the opportunity for tertiary-level education.

In view of the foregoing, the early approval of this bill is earnestly sought.



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