Sotto: Economic Cha-cha has chance in Senate, but foreign investments bills still priority

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 21) — The proposal to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution still has some chance in the Senate, but key economic bills remain a priority when session resumes next week, Senate President Tito Sotto III said Wednesday.

In his taped interview with CNN Philippines' The Source, Sotto said the Resolution of Both Houses 2, which the House of Representatives approved on June 1, has been referred to the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

"Yung deadline na pinag-uusapan namin (ni Speaker Lord Allan Velasco) na January or February 2022 is still possible," Sotto said.

[Translation: The deadline that Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and I have been aiming for which is January or February 2022 is still possible.]

"I'm not saying that it doesn't stand a chance in the Senate. February because of the plebiscite. It needs a plebiscite to be able to be approved by the people," he added.

Sotto explained the senators are still prioritizing primary economic bills such as the Retail Trade Liberalization Act or Senate Bill 1840, the Public Service Act or SB 2094, and the Foreign Investments Act or SB 1156, which will all increase foreign direct investments in the country.

SB 1840 will ease requirements for foreign retailers in the country, SB 2094 will allow foreigners to fully own public services like telecommunications and transportation, while SB 1156 will allow foreigners to own "domestic market enterprises."

Sotto said the three economic bills may already address what economic Cha-cha wants to cover, especially with SB 1840 already up for bicameral deliberation and with the two other measures already in the Senate plenary.

READ: Sotto: Economic Cha-cha passage dependent on key liberalization bills

"The economic bills that are pending now, we might be able to pass by August, September. And with all the measures coming from the Department of Finance that we are tackling, there is a possibility that the economic Cha-cha will not be necessary as soon as these bills become a law," Sotto said.

He added that the Senate will also act on the proposed Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery or the GUIDE Act, which will assist businesses in recovering from the pandemic, as well as the proposed creation of the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos.

What's next for Bayanihan 3?

Meanwhile, the Senate will continue to review the proposed Bayanihan to Arise as One Act or Bayanihan 3, a ₱401-billion COVID-19 stimulus package which the House approved last month.

Sotto said they intend to pass the measure, but they will incorporate a Senate version that will address conflicting provisions such as the billions of pesos worth of funds for uniformed personnel, since it is "not incorporated in the sense of the entire bill."

The Senate and the House will resume session on Monday, July 26, the same day that President Rodrigo Duterte will hold his sixth and final State of the Nation Address.