President Rodrigo Duterte, on Friday, October 16, told Congress to fast-track their passage of two measures – a bill that helps financial institutions weather the COVID-19 pandemic and a bill that strengthens the country's regulations against money laundering and terrorism financing.
Copies of the letters certifying these measures as urgent were sent to Malacañang reporters on Saturday, October 17.
Despite the certification, Congress was unable to pass the bills on October 16, the last day of session before its break from October 17 to November 15.
Senate Bill No 1849 and its counterpart in the House, Bill No 6622, seeks to help financial institutions like banks offload their non-performing assets (NPAs) so that they can be more liquid and thus more capable of providing a flow of credit to the economy.
It's also known as the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act, which Duterte's economic managers, led by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, have long lobbied for.
Financial institutions face an increase in NPAs because the pandemic has hurt the income of many Filipinos and businesses, thus hampering them from paying for their loans on time.
The measure encourages financial institutions to sell their NPAs to asset management companies that are specialized in resolving distressed assets. It does this by granting tax exemptions and reducing fees involved in NPA transactions.
The House already passed its measure on 3rd and final reading in early June. With Duterte's certification addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the upper chamber could pass the bill on final reading right after passing it on 2nd reading – doing away with the usual 3-day gap between the two steps.
Duterte called on both the Senate and House to pass their versions of a bill giving more teeth to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.
The bills (Senate Bill No 1412 and House Bill No 6174) seek to amend the law to make it compliant with legal standards set by international bodies on countering money laundering and the funding of terrorism activities. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.