While the Philippines is working on a shift to federalism, its legislature is prioritizing the passage of laws to address the gap between the rich and the poor in the country.
This according to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who at the 136th Interparliamentary Union Assembly lamented that “this dichotomy in Philippine society, where there are the haves who are living in abundance and abandon, and the have-nots who are very poor and have been left behind, is an unpleasant reminder, for a legislator like me, that in our country, economic growth has only benefitted the already wealthy.”
Pimentel said that Congress under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, while waiting for the benefits of federalism, has “begun to address some problems which promote or perpetuate inequality with policy changes.”
The lawyer and former Bar topnotcher told legislators from all over the world that the Philippine government was in the process of passing laws to provide free tertiary education, to promote investments, to ensure job security, and to reform the country’s income tax system—all with the end in view of combatting social inequity.
Pimentel, a law graduate of the University of the Philippines, the country’s premiere state university, said that the government believes that “education is the great equalizer” and that beginning 2017, tuition in the Philippines’ state universities and colleges would be free to deserving students.
“To promote the ease of doing business in the Philippines and give micro and small businesses a chance to compete with bigger ones,” said Pimentel, “we will cut red tape, make government-issued documents more reliable and trustworthy so that there should be no more need to get repetitive documents from numerous government agencies, and impose an ambitious 72-hour deadline for all applications with government.”
The Mindanao-born legislator added that the Duterte Administration would also plug loopholes in the country’s labor laws which prevent the regulatorization of employees through an arrangement called “contractualization”.
“We will put an end to this unlawful form of labor-only contracting.”
Workers in the Philippines will also get much-needed tax relief, said Pimentel, as Congress updates tax brackets so that the country would have “a truly progressive system of income taxation, which should be fairer to all.”
Pimentel urged his fellow legislators to push for laws that would provide opportunities for everyone, rich or poor, regardless of the difficulties involved in passing such laws.
“My fellow parliamentarians, the process of change will be hard and difficult but we should never give up. Let us embrace a sense of urgency in this battle to eliminate inequalities in the world and in our societies.”