Poe chides Executive branch on priority bill for banks

- By Butch Fernandez

VOicing disappoint­ment, senator Grace Poe last Wednesday reminded feuding officials in government’s Executive branch to get their act together to ensure the early passage of the administra­tion-backed Financial institutio­ns strategic transfer, or Fist, bill.

Presiding over the hearing of the senate Committee on Banks, Poe aired disappoint­ment over the officials “lack of cooperatio­n on its own priority bill,” referring to Fist, a remedial legislatio­n that will allow banks to “offload soured loans and free up more funds” to boost the economy.

“i’d like to note also that this is a priority measure, and yet it’s disappoint­ing to see that the heads of agencies didn’t really attend,” Poe said after officials of the Bureau of internal revenue (Bir) and the Bureau of treasury (Btr) took opposite sides on the bill, with the Btr supporting Fist and the Bir voicing its strong opposition to it.

Poe pointed out that with the economy experienci­ng its biggest fall in eight decades, the Executive, the Finance department in particular, should heed its own call for unity.

“they are the ones saying that the economy needs it now. so, how will we know for sure that the economy needs it now if we don’t even have a commitment, an actual presence from those heads explaining to us in detail what their commitment­s are and the safeguards they’re willing to accept,” says Poe.

the senator noted that the Btr said only P3 billion to P13 billion in revenues will be waived as part of the incentives under the Fist. But Poe said that with only a low-level bureaucrat of the Bir attending the hearing, she is having second thoughts on the certainty of the opposition expressed by its representa­tive.

“We are now officially in recession. Companies are closing shop, people have lost their jobs and millions have gone hungry; add to that people dying because of the pandemic including healthcare workers,” she said.

the senator stressed that banks and financial institutio­ns are seen to “play a key role,” noting that the Bangko sentral ng Pilipinas expects the bad loans ratio of banks to double by the end of the year, projecting “this will tie up funds that can otherwise be used to fuel the economy.”

“While the threat to the banking sector is not immediate,” Poe reminded that “it is best to have the measures in place sooner rather than later for the big corporatio­ns and MSMES [micro, small and medium enterprise­s] to recover and for people to get their livelihood­s back.”

Moreover, the senator reminded that “this crash precipitat­ed urgent measures from the government,” adding that the senate Committee on Banks “would like to stop playing catch-up with the pandemic and prepare the policy for the worse.”

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