Thursday, May 7, 2015

Business sector supports BBL; points out 13 potential economic issues

From the Philippine News Agency (May 7): Business sector supports BBL; points out 13 potential economic issues

The business sector expressed support for the passage of the Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) during the first public presentation of the Report of the Peace Council on Thursday.

What are the potential issue that they (businessmen) might face with BBL? These were identified in a discussion according to Michael Montelibano, head of the Business Development and Innovation, Ayala Corporation, and representative of Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala in the presentation.

The group reviewed the draft articles of the BBL and related materials like the Bangsamoro Development Plan. It also consulted BBL experts and stakeholders.

After a detailed discussion with members of the cluster and resource persons, the group identified 13 potential economy and patrimony issues which, Montelibano said, could be addressed through providing a more detailed explanation and information. These are:

1. Natural resources

The group asks how can this affect the private sector’s ability to invest in related sectors if the Bangsamoro government will have exclusive powers on ancestral domain and natural resources.

This is not an issue, the group realized, as devolution is already happening.

2. Labor matters

With regard to labor matters, the group thinks there’s a need to clarify how deviations may be legislated by the Bangsamoro.

3. Land transfer

As land acquisitions and titles shall be governed by the Bangsamoro government, it may or may not be consistent with the rest of the country.

However, land titles that were already registered under the national system will be honored by the Bangsamoro government.

4. Customs and tariff

This is a potential issue as it may promote more smuggling in the region. The group thinks there’s just a need for further clarification with the manner of enforcement.

5. Infrastructure

Will the government’s infrastructure development program (public-private partnership or PPP) still apply in the Bangsamoro? This is another thing that the group seeks further clarification.

6. Power sector

The Bangsamoro government will regulate generation, transmission, and distribution when not connected to national grid. As such, the group thinks there’s a need to develop and disclose parameters managing power projects connected to national grid.

7. Transport and communication

Another area that the cluster seeks for further clarification is on transport and communication. Montelibano said the Bangsamoro government will need to work closely with various agencies (such as the DOTC, CAB, MIA, PPA, LTFRB, LTO and NTC) to determine any additional powers as well as the extent of check and balance mechanisms.

8. Power to temporarily take over business

Montelibano pointed out that the chief minister may order the temporary takeover of any privately-owned business affected with public interest in times of state of calamity.

With this, there’s a need to define specific set of instances where businesses can be taken over by the chief minister.

9. Taxes

The business community is curious on how their businesses will be taxed under a new tax regime. Montelibano clarified, however, that this needs not to be an issue since major taxes in Bangsamoro are same as national taxes. “Taxes may actually be set lower in the region to promote investment,” he added.

10. Inland waters

Since the Bangsamoro government may enact laws on regulation, management and protection of resources, the cluster seeks further clarification to ensure that access to water will remain equitable.

11. Block grant

Montelibano pointed out that the public’s perception on the block grant is that the Bangsamoro will receive more than its due share of the national internal revenue. But the cluster thinks this just needs more details and a clear explanation on amounts that the Bangsomoro government will receive.

12. Auditing body

While the public’s perception is that Bangsamoro will have its own audit commission independent of Commision on Audit, the economy cluster thinks that this needs not to be a contentious issue.

This is a misinterpretation according to Montelibano. “If any rewording is necessary to avoid misinterpretation, the provision in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro may be considered,” said Montelibano.

13. Security

“This is an important economic issue for us, investors,” Montelibano highlighted. He added that peace and order also affect the growth of businesses in the area.

Montelibano reiterated that these 13 potential issues will certainly be addressed with clarifications. “We support the BBL. I think everybody will benefit from peace,” he told the Philippines News Agency.

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