Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Competitiveness proposals readied at business meet

Shipping business leaders pushed for the shift of cargo traffic from Manila to Batangas and Subic ports in a bid to decongest the capital’s harbor. The group also called for the permanent reduction of wharfage dues from $6 to $1 per 20-foot container.

BUSINESS LEADERS meeting in an annual national conference plan to call on the government to enact policies ensuring improved transport infrastructure, food security, energy independence, and simplified taxation.

An advance copy of the 34th Philippine Business Conference’s resolutions was released by organizers. The proposals, consolidated by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), will be presented to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

For infrastructure, business leaders called for increased foreign carrier access to Philippine airports.

"[We are] urging more bilateral talks ... with other countries ... like Singapore, Russia, Australia and Middle East ... to improve the country’s accessibility by tourists and overseas Filipinos," the document read.

Also yesterday, British ambassador to the Philippines Peter Beckingam said that the country should learn from the United Kingdom’s experience, where a number of its air and sea ports, trains, and tollways are owned by foreigners.

But Alfredo M. Yao, PCCI vice-president for industry and transportation and Zest Airways, Inc. director, would rather that foreign carriers only operate in routes not offered by their domestic counterparts.

For shipping infrastructure, meanwhile, business leaders pushed for the shift of cargo traffic from Manila to Batangas and Subic ports in a bid to decongest the capital’s harbor. The group also called for the permanent reduction of wharfage dues from $6 to $1 per 20-foot container.

Land transport infrastructure, meanwhile, needs to be improved by expanding the capacity of commuter railways and increasing private sector participation in the construction and development of toll roads.

"[We support] the implementation of priority infrastructure through solicited bids under the build-operate-transfer law. Less emphasis should be given to unsolicited and joint venture modes in order to promote greater transparency...," the document read.

For the agriculture sector, business leaders called for a ban of the conversion of agricultural land, duty-free importation of farm inputs and machinery for 10 years, and the reduction of costs, particularly tariffs on fertilizer, to "attain food security and agricultural productivity".

The group also recommended that farmland be accepted as collateral so farmers have access to credit for the purchase of machinery and other production inputs. For fruit exports, trade attaches must be mobilized to promote such while the Agriculture department must forge bilateral fruit quarantine deals with China, Taiwan, South Korea, the Middle East, and Australia.

Business leaders also urged the government to do the following regarding energy:

reduce taxes and royalties on fuel used for power generation and review the unbundled rate of National Transmission Corporation in a bid to cut back on the "prevailing power rate";
compel Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. to speed up the full privatization of National Power Corp. and the appointment of an independent power producers administrator within the next six months;
review the performance-based rate setting system which increases the yearly electricity rate as the scheme is said to collect advance contributions from consumers even as promised upgrading investments are not yet implemented;
develop an independent power grid in Palawan and provide energy incentives in the Visayas; and
conduct a study on possible plants that can be used as biofuel feedstock.

Regarding taxation, the group called for the streamlining of tax compliance rules and the removal of a provision in the Tax Code that requires the government to publish the names and contributions of taxpayers. Taxes below a minimum or maximum threshold should also be paid less frequently, the group said.

Aside from those above, the PCCI also threw its support behind solving the job skills mismatch, strengthening of environmental laws, increased funding for government agencies that guard against corruption, adoption of international standards for intellectual property protection, and a population control program that advocates free choice of birth control methods. Businessworld



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