Tax, Rice and Central Bank Bills Are Piling Up on Duterte's Desk

(Bloomberg) -- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature is all that’s needed to enact bills that will allow more rice imports, boost the central bank’s capital and grant the first tax amnesty in a decade.

But these economic measures, along with more than two dozen bills, are piling up and awaiting Duterte’s final approval. Under the law, bills that are neither signed nor vetoed by the president will lapse into law 30 days after they were transmitted by Congress.

The bill that will remove import restrictions on rice and is counted on to help damp inflation was transmitted to Duterte’s office on Jan. 16 and will lapse into law on Feb. 15, unless the president vetoes it. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said last month that he had asked the president to make changes on the rice measure.

Senate President Tito Sotto said he doesn’t know what has happened to the rice bill. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said he hasn’t gotten any word on the status of the pending pieces of legislation. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea hasn’t answered calls and text messages seeking comment.

“It’s imperative that the president gets them through to law,” said Nicholas Mapa, a senior economist at ING Groep NV in Manila. “Their passage could send a signal to investors that Duterte is indeed a man of action.”

Key Pending Measures

  • A rice reform bill allowing more imports is seen by policy makers to shave off about one percentage point from annual inflation. In 2018, a rice shortage along with higher taxes and elevated oil prices pushed inflation to the fastest pace in nine years and triggered a 175-basis-point increase in the central bank’s policy rate.
  • Amendments to the central bank’s charter will increase its capital to 200 billion pesos ($3.8 billion) and also expand its regulatory powers to cover payment systems operators and foreign exchange companies.
  • The first tax amnesty since 2007 is estimated to raise about 41 billion pesos in additional revenue.
  • Changes to the nation’s corporation code will allow the perpetual existence of corporations.

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