Action for Economic Reforms (AER), informed that the bicameral conference committee will meet to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Reform Act (CREATE) Bill, has called on both chambers to reject the insertion of any amendments that are not found in either version of the Senate or the House. It is patently illegal for the bicameral conference committee to introduce new amendments that are not part of either bill approved by the Lower House and Senate on third reading.

AER is aware that differences exist between the Lower House and the Senate version of the bill. However, we note that the Senate version has made the concessions and compromises to address the concerns of some legislators. The Senate version thus represents the “political equilibrium” to ensure the bill’s passage.

We give credit to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chairperson Pia Cayetano and her colleagues for giving all stakeholders a platform to be heard and for forging reasonable compromises while safeguarding the essential reforms. We note the intensity of the debate in the Senate. We also credit the House Committee on Ways and Means Chairperson Joey Salceda and his colleagues for the swift and decisive passage of a good bill.

In this light, the bicameral conference committee should consider the Senate version as the bottom line. The outcome of the bicameral conference should not yield any version that is worse than the Senate version. Any improvement that should be based on the House version or Senate version is welcome, but any further compromise—or dilution–beyond the Senate version should be rejected.

For AER, the bicameral conference committee is an opportunity to reconcile the reform features found in either the House bill or Senate bill. But we are also well aware that legislators with vested interests will use the bicameral committee in an effort to dilute the impact of the measure when it comes to the rationalization of fiscal incentives.

In particular, we caution our legislators not to weaken the mandate of the Fiscal Incentives Regulatory Board (FIRB). Some legislators and the private interests they favor want to defang the FIRB by sidelining it from making decisions on critical investments. The FIRB is at the core of the governance of fiscal incentives, ensuring that the granting of fiscal incentives is based not on lobby pressure but on rigorous economic criteria.

AER also cautions against any attempt to reverse the gains from the measure to exempt some parties or zones from the proposed rules on fiscal incentives. To repeat, to make surreptitious insertions is patently illegal.

We ask the public to stay vigilant regarding the insertions to be made during the bicameral conference. AER commits to seek accountability from those who will abuse this legislative process to weaken the gains from CREATE.