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Industry players urged to support Marcos’ housing program

The government’s economic development team has appealed for the real estate industry’s continued investment to help achieve the administration’s economic and housing agenda.

Rising from the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, the Philippines became the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia in 2023 with a 5.6-percent annualized gross domestic product (GDP) growth—slightly below the government’s 6.0 percent to 7.0 percent target.

“Following a period of pandemic-induced downturn, market expectations have now rebounded with much strength and vigor,” Department of Finance (DOF) Undersecretary Maria Edita Z. Tan said during the induction of the officers of the Chamber of Real Estate & Builders’ Associations Inc. (CREBA).

“We believe that this upward growth in our economy will continue over to 2024. As the government continues to control inflation, we hope to bring about an even better Philippine growth number for you in 2024,” added Secretary Frederick D. Go, special assistant to the President on investment and economic affairs.

Green Lanes for Strategic Investments

One of the major policies initiated by the current administration is Executive Order (EO) 18, also known as the Green Lanes for Strategic Investments, which expedites, streamlines and automates government registration process for strategic foreign direct investments and highly-desirable projects.

As of end 2023, the Board of Investments has certified 23 projects with a total value of P500 billion—16 of which are in the renewable energy sector.

Go cited a joint venture project of SunAsia Energy and Singapore-based Blue Leaf Energy as the first registrant to the green lane. He hopes other developers would follow suit.

The issuance of EO 32, on the other hand, is commendable as it simplifies the permitting process for the construction of telecommunications and internet infrastructure nationwide.

The benefits of this being the faster rollout of digital infrastructure, improving network performance, and increasing internet access for Filipinos will redound also to speedy enforcement of various real estate development projects, such as residential and office buildings, that necessitate reliable and stable connectivity.

Taxes, PPP

Go also cited Republic Act (RA) 11976. Also known as the Ease of Paying Taxes (EOPT) law, RA 11976 seeks to modernize and simplify tax administration while strengthening taxpayer rights, he added.

Some of the notable requirements it introduces are: filing of returns and payment of taxes anywhere; 180-day period for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to process general refund claims; classification of taxpayers into micro, small, medium and large industries; and, the classification of VAT refunds into low-, medium- and high-risk claims.

“So by streamlining the processes, the EOPT law minimizes burden on taxpayers and encourages improved compliance,” he said.

The New Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Code, or RA 11966, was signed into law last December, updating the 29-year-old Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law. Its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were signed last March 21, and it will take effect on April 6.

“We believe that this is critical to promote the best ideas come forward for the delivery of high quality and cost effective infrastructure projects,” Go said. “We assure you that the IRR will encourage private sector investments. And the best part is there is enough flexibility in the law to allow the IRR to adopt to the changing times.”

Build better more

The privatization of the Manila International Airport, he noted, is projected to raise more than P950 billion in revenues for the government over the concession period and increase the annual airport capacity from 35 million to 62 million passengers. Go said this move serves as the government’s prompt answer to the perennial clamor for an improved aviation facility in the country to save it from the notoriety of having the worst of its kind in the world.

With an enhanced gateway to the country, more business locators will be enticed to move their factories or business operations to the country, thus taking up industrial and office spaces in economic zones and central business districts.

Not to be ignored also is the creation in 2023 of the Maharlika Investment Fund. For him, the country’s first sovereign wealth fund underscores the government’s dedication to pursue priority projects for socio-economic transformation and to catalyze economic developments.

Last, but not the least, is the “Build-Better-More” program, which has 185 infrastructure flagship projects worth over P9 trillion.

“I encourage you to take a look at them because these infrastructure projects are highly related to real estate, and you might find some of them interesting,” said the secretary.

Much work

While the administration has made significant strides in creating a conducive environment for investments, he pointed out that “there’s still much work to be done for the country to be globally competitive.”

To this end, Go said his office is currently backing the enactment of House Bill 9794, or the proposed “Create More” law. He said the bill seeks to resolve issues stemming from the Train law and Create Act that affected foreign direct investors, particularly exporters.

Go said those who should be concerned about HB 9794 either own industrial parks or office buildings “because BPOs [business process outsourcers], industrial sector, semiconductors; all of these industrial exporters, all need the “Create More” law.

“So now it is going up to the Senate, which—I have the assurance of the Senate leadership; that this will be acted on swiftly as possible.”

The secretary also cited that they are now working with the Congress to act on a new bill that will help boost the capital markets by shortening the trading cycle from three days to two days, reducing initial public offering (IPO) review to 45 days from the current timeline of four months to six months, simplifying IPO filing requirements and implementing short selling.

He said government is also allowing all new weighted average price trading in the same day, reducing friction costs and encouraging more listings or IPOs.

“Many of you, those who are not yet listed in the Philippine Stocks Exchange, or hope to become listed someday, this is the purpose of this bill. It is to simplify the IPO application process. It is to improve trading in the PSE. For those of you who play stocks, you’re probably on in the red and you’ve been losing money for the last few years. And part of the reason for that is the lack of liquidity in the market. So we’re addressing them with these initiatives,” Go stressed.

Among the seven priority sectors of the government, he urged developers and real estate stakeholders to partake in the development of the steel industry because being the “builders of buildings, houses and roads” who need a component of steel in almost all of their projects know well how “it is foundational to economic growth.”

“Because of the President’s very successful and hardworking pitch to the rest of the world, the Philippines is open for business. And I hope for your optimism that we are doing a lot to improve the Philippine investment climate, and that all of you will continue to invest in the Philippines in a big, big way,” Go said

4PH and sector growth

Believing that a period of sustained growth for the real estate sector is on the horizon, Tan called for the industry players’ full cooperation to help make the government’s “Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino Program” or “4PH” a success.

This is one of the pillars of the administration’s massive flagship housing agenda, which aims to build a total of 6 million housing units by 2028 and generate around 1.7 million jobs every year.

“The 4PH program not only seeks to secure quality, safe and resilient homes for every Filipino, but it is also designed to swing wide open new doors to livelihood opportunities for our people. This way, we ensure that this applies for every Filipino not just for today, but also for tomorrow,” she said.

As the country’s oldest and largest umbrella organization of real estate developers, the DOF undersecretary noted that CREBA has a crucial role to play in this endeavor.

“With your dedication and support, we can make significant progress in ensuring that the government fulfills this target. This mission won’t certainly be easy. But by working together in constructing one house at a time, we can build not just homes, but vibrant communities and, ultimately, a strong nation for the Filipino people,” Tan stressed.

By RODERICK ABAD, Business Mirror

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