MANILA, October 13, 2005
 (STAR) By Marianne V. Go - The 31st Philippine Business Conference (PBC) ends today with the business sector presenting a 13-point action agenda for President Arroyo to implement.

President Arroyo, who will address PBC’s closing plenary session, is expected to reassure the business community that all is well in the country despite the current political problems besetting her administration.

This year’s action agenda differs from previous conferences wherein the business sector gave much broader resolutions.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president Donald Dee said that this time around, the business community wanted a more definitive action program which the government could act on.

Areas where action is needed are fiscal reforms, tourism, energy, Customs, infrastructure development, agriculture and food security, SME development, special economic zones, private sector participation in trade negotiations, LGU-business partnership, one-stop action centers, population management and watershed management.

Topping the business sector’s 13-point agenda is the implementation of fiscal reforms, specifically the deferral of the value-added tax (VAT) on petroleum and power in light of the current global energy crisis.

Likewise, the business sector wants the government to remove or increase the 70 percent cap on the amount of input value-added tax (VAT) credit that a VAT-registered person may claim against its output VAT.

The business sector also wants the government to remove the requirement of amortizing the input VAT on capital goods purchased or imported by a VAT-registered person aggregating at least P1 million a month.

And lastly, they are urging the government to publicize an official updated National Internal Revenue Code including a set of consolidated implementing revenue regulations.

Prioritizing the implementation of a tourism master plan was second on the PBC’s action agenda.

The business sector is urging the institutionalization of the PCCI’s master plan for Philippine tourism which they have dubbed Biztours 5 which aims to bring in five million tourist to generate $5 billion in tourism receipts and create five million jobs through $5 billion investments in tourism by the fifth year.

However, the PCCI is urging the government to allocate an initial P10 million in seed money for the Biztours 5 program and designating the PCCI as the lead coordinating body.

Coming in third in the PBC action agenda for the President is energy reforms.

The PBC participants wants the Executive Department to urge Congress to resolve all issues and amendments to the EPIRA at the earliest possible time and implement and enforceable provisions of the EPIRA.

The local business group is also urging fair and meaningful competition in the generation sector by developing a level playing field as the National Power Corp. (Napocor) is privatized.

No. 4 on the PBC’s action agenda is customs affairs, specifically urging the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to strictly enforce its directives, rules and regulations in the compliance of documentary requirements that will clearly validate the true and correct description and volume of the contents of cargoes/shipments that arrive in and leave the customs territory.

The business sector also wants the installation of x-ray/gamma ray machines to effectively and accurately detect smuggled and/or prohibited imported articles.

They also pushed for the outsourcing to a third party consultant and gathering of credible reference values without any cost to the government and likewise outsource the registration and accreditation of importers with final approval by the BOC.

The business sector also urged the disposal or auction of seized/forfeited, abandoned and/or overstaying goods/cargoes and utilize the proceeds for government projects.

Infrastructure development was ranked No. 5 with the business sector urging the formulation of a comprehensive infrastructure development plan for modernization, rehabilitation and maintenance of airports, sea ports and major roads and highways.

On top of the infrastructure rehabilitation list is EDSA and the SLEX from Calamba to Star Highway as well as diversion roads in Northern Luzon as well as the ports of Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao.

The business sector also urged the expansion of the Caticlan Airport near Boracay.

At No. 6 on the PBC agenda was agriculture, where the business sector urged the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive and viable food security program that would develop agri-industrial supply chain.

Likewise, they also urged the development and implementation of a comprehensive irrigation plan for the country to ensure inventory of water resources.

On SME development which is No. 7 on the action agenda, they urged President Arroyo to instruct PAGCOR to release the remaining balance of the Barangay Micro Business Enterprises Act (BMBE) development fund.

They are also urging the fast tract of the SME Surety Fund.

At No. 8, the PBC wants government to address concerns of the special economic zones, particularly fast track the passage of a law clarifying the tax and duty-free incentives granted to Subic, Clark and other ecozones and honor existing contracts entered into with investors and locators in all economic zones.

At No. 9, the business sector wants more private sector participation in government trade negotiations.

At No. 10, the business sector want more partnerships with local government units, state universities and colleges for research and development activities. At No. 11 is the creation of a one-stop action office. At No. 12 is implementation of a comprehensive population management and family planning program. And last of the PBC’s action agenda is the development of a comprehensive short to long-term water program and development of additional water reservoirs.

The business conference aims to chart a roadmap for global excellence for Filipino entrepreneurs and government to create a friendly business environment for enterprises to flourish and contribute to the country’s economic advancement. - With a report from Aurea Calica

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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