CONGRESS RECOVERING TARIFF POWERS FROM PALACE

Quezon City, May 26, 2003 -- Congress is poised to clip the powers of the 
president in issuing executive orders involving adjustments in tariffs on 
concerns that the indiscriminate issuances of EOs on tariffs could affect 
the economy.

In House Bill 4958 introduced by Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier, Congress 
seeks to "recapture" the power over tariffs, noting that since 1986, there 
have been 107 EOs fixing the tariff rates or reclassifying dutiable 
articles - 24 under President Aquino, 46 under President Ramos , 22 under 
President Estrada and 15 under President Arroyo.

"The exercise of power over tariffs is a question of policy which has a 
deep impact on the economy. The power over tariffs is a constitutional 
mandate vested in Congress ," Javier said in his bill.

The president is given the special powers under Section 401 of the Tariff 
and Customs Code to increase, reduce or remove tariff rates if it involves 
the interest of the national economy. But Congress feels those powers 
should be applied only when Congress is in compulsory recess; that is, when 
Conrgess adjourns sine die between two regular sessions.

At the same time, HB 4958 seeks to limit the effectivity of those changes 
for a period of one year. It added that Congress could withdraw or 
terminate those changes through a joint resolution.

In noting the impact of tariff adjustments on the economy, Javier cited the 
case of cement where a balance should be reached in setting the rates. 
"What policy will government adopt? Open the tariff gates for cheap 
imported cement to protect the construction industry and the consumers? Or 
maintain a high tariff wall against imported cement to protect the jobs of 
thousands of workers employed in the local cement industry?" he said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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