Neda urges Congress to pass bills on water resources, digital connectivity, fiscal reforms

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) urges Congress to pass crucial bills supporting the Marcos administration’s goal of inclusive and sustainable social and economic transformation as the 19th Congress resumed its second regular session on January 22.

These measures include the bills on the Department of Water Resources, Open Access in Data Transmission, and the various fiscal reforms that seek to strengthen tax administration and broaden the tax base.

“It has been one year since the launch of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028. While we saw some of our headline indicators improve, much remains to be done. To ensure that we remain on track to meet our goals by 2028, and in anticipation of future challenges and scenarios, we must pass key legislative measures aimed at strengthening the country’s economic governance and addressing the structural weaknesses of our production sectors,” said NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

In his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. underscored the importance of the proposed Department of Water Resources, which will serve as the primary agency responsible for the comprehensive and integrated water resources development and management in the Philippines.

Currently, there are over 30 agencies with overlapping functions over the country’s water resources, which leads to uncoordinated planning efforts and inconsistent implementation of policies that adversely affect the country’s water supply.

This state of affairs affects about 12.40 million people who obtain water from unsafe sources, with some areas needing more water service providers.

NEDA is also pushing for enacting the proposed Open Access in Data Transmission Act as part of the Common Legislative Agenda (CLA) of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council, or LEDAC, chaired by President Marcos.

The said bill aims to narrow the digital divide in the country by encouraging the development of data transmission infrastructure, removing barriers to competition in data transmission services, and enabling the full potential of e-commerce, digital trade, and applications in the fields of education, health, and agriculture, among others.

The proposed measure promotes further liberalization of the telecommunications sector by removing the requirement of a legislative franchise for players seeking to build their networks, rationalizing access and use of the country’s scarce spectrum resources, and making it easier for entrants to provide better services for consumers at more competitive prices.

Furthermore, the NEDA joins the members of the Economic Team in supporting the passage of critical fiscal reforms and ensuring the speedy rollout of improvements to the country’s tax administration systems as enabled by the recently passed Ease of Paying Taxes Act.

These revenue-generating and efficiency-enhancing measures will strengthen the country’s fiscal position and sustainably support the provision of social services and infrastructure projects in the medium and long term.

The revenue-generating bills include the Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform (RPVAR) and the VAT on Digital Services.

Meanwhile, the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises to Maximize Opportunities for Reinvigorating the Economy (CREATE MORE) aims to improve tax administration for enterprises, encourage investments, and promote the ease of business in the country.

In addition to these priority bills, NEDA is also supporting the passage of the Economy, Planning, and Development Bill – the latest iteration of the NEDA Bill.

The measure aims to institutionalize the NEDA into the Department of Economic Planning and Development to strengthen the government’s ability to formulate and coordinate medium- and long-term economic and development roadmaps aligned with the AmBisyon Natin 2040, the country’s long-term vision.

This bill also aims to enhance the coherence of national and sub-national policies, plans, and programs towards the optimal use of financial resources through the country’s public investment program.

“Sa NEDA, sentro ang tao sa plano (At NEDA, our plans are people-centered). The passage of the NEDA Bill will allow us to better leverage our expertise in people-centered development planning across all national and local sectors and ensure that all Filipinos feel the benefits of such exercises,” Balisacan said.