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House adopts Senate versions of bills extending budget validity, creating coco trust fund

house adopts senate versions of bills extending budget validity creating coco trust fund 816x445 - House adopts Senate versions of bills extending budget validity, creating coco trust fund

THE House of Representatives on Wednesday adopted the Senate version of a bill extending the validity of the 2020 Budget until the end of 2021, and another Senate measure creating the coconut levy trust fund, with both actions billed as necessary to provide economic relief.

With no votes opposing, House legislators adopted the Senate counterpart to House Bill (HB) No. 6656, which aims to extend the validity of this year’s budget until Dec. 31, 2021 by amending Republic Act No. 11465 or the General Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2020.

The measure seeks to continue financing from the 2020 Budget infrastructure projects that have reached the procurement stage, to help spur the recovery next year.

The House likewise adopted the Senate counterpart of HB No. 8136, or the proposed Coconut Farmers and Development Trust Fund Act, which will form a trust fund out of coconut levy assets, with proceeds from the trust’s investments helping rehabilitate and modernize the coconut industry.

The bill allows poor coconut farmers to benefit from taxes collected from them decades ago, now equivalent to around P76 billion.

Speaker Lord Allan Q. Velasco said he hopes the once-vetoed legislation will be signed into law by President Rodrigo R. Duterte “this time around.”

Quezon Representative Wilfrido Mark M. Enverga, chairman of the House committee on agriculture and food, said the concerns cited in the veto of the first coconut levy bill last year “have been addressed” in the new measure.

“We are very careful in crafting this new version of the bill so we are confident that we have resolved everything,” Mr. Enverga at a briefing in the House.

“We ensured that there is a limitation of 99 years. Secondly, with regard to the broad powers given to the Philippine Coconut Authority, we addressed this by delineating powers of implementing authority to the newly-constituted Board of the PCA (Philippine Coconut Authority),” he said. “We also established a Trust Fund Management Committee, composed of the Department of Budget and Management and Department of Justice.”

The House also approved on second reading HB No. 8145, which seeks to extend to 2041 the applicability of lifeline rates — in effect, subsidized electricity — for low-income users. The bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

Mr. Velasco, one the bill’s proponents, has said the proposed legislation would allow low-income households continued access to electricity during the pandemic. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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