Senate eyes early session resumption to tackle 2021 budget, CREATE bill: Zubiri

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2020 01:35 PM

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri sponsors a bill in plenary on October 7, 2020. Albert Calvelo, Senate PRIB/File

MANILA - Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Thursday said the Senate plans to resume session a week earlier in November to work on the passage of the 2021 budget and a bill that would rationalize corporate income taxes— two measures cited as priorities of the executive branch.

Instead of having a month-long break starting this week, the Senate will resume plenary work on November 9, Zubiri said in an online press conference.

"We want to start early para hindi na tayo mahirapan sa (so that we will not have a hard time with) budget deliberations," he said.

"Gusto kasi ni Sen. Sonny Angara hindi na kami cramming, medyo relaxed na," he said, referring to the chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.

(Sen. Sonny Angara wants us to avoid cramming and be more relaxed.) 

The Senate just needs to get the consent of the House of Representatives to resume session earlier than the original November 16 schedule, he said.

The law mandates one legislative chamber to get the "consent" of the other body should it want to reopen the plenary on a date that deviates from the legislative calendar.

Senators had to adjust their working calendar after a power struggle for the House speakership delayed the transmission of the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget to the Senate. 

Under the law, the Senate cannot tackle all budget-related bills in plenary unless the House approves it on third and final reading.

Zubiri said the Senate needs to have the 2021 spending bill within the month for the chamber to finish deliberations and pass the bill into law before the current budget expires on December 31, 2020.

"Ang plano namin, hindi na tatagal ng first week of December 'yung bicam," he said.

(We plan to finish bicameral discussions by the first week of December.)

Should the House fail to transmit the 2021 budget to the Senate this month, senators will still have to work in the first half of November to pass the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act into law.

The CREATE bill will reduce corporate income taxes in the Philippines to 25 percent, from the current 30 percent, but will also remove incentives from several businesses located in special economic zones.

"I have a funny feeling na hindi namin matatapos ang create sa araw na ito," Zubiri said.

"It's going to be a very difficult night to night debates... I think aabutin pa ito ng (this will not be settled until) November if we can't finish it tonight," he said.