Landbank-DBP merger, right of way bills get nod

Voting 197-1, the chamber approved the merger bill on third reading in its Monday plenary session.

Under House Bill 5575, the two government financial institutions are merged into one, with Landbank as the surviving entity given bigger assets and a wider branch network.

The merger is expected to make the entity as among the top 25 banks in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations upon economic integration.

Formal talks on the proposed bank merger began Feb. 3 and was followed by a series of technical working groups to study two proposals for either the merger or consolidation of Landbank and DBP.

The proposal seeks to “rationalize government operations,” as recommended by the Governance Commission for Government Owned or Controlled Corporations, saying that it is redundant to have two state banks rendering the same services of taking in deposits and giving out loans for agriculture, industrial and home financing. Landbank has the added task of facilitating transfers of agrarian land.

Abakada Party-list Rep. Jonathan A. Dela Cruz voted against the measure, saying his proposed amendments were not included in the final draft.

The measure was tagged as one of the priorities of both Senate and the House of Representatives during the May 4 meeting of chamber leaders for their sessions until June 11.

Following the House’s approval, the bill now goes to the Senate for another round of talks.

Senator Sergio R. Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies, earlier said that the chamber would approve the bill after the House does.

The chamber has also given its final approval for a measure which legislates the procedure for acquiring right of way for national government projects.

Voting unanimously late Monday, the House approved on third reading House Bill 5588 or amendments to the Right-of-Way Act and puts into law a procedure for government agencies to purchase parcels of privately owned land which are affected by state infrastructure projects.

“Private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation,” the bill reads.

Under the measure, the implementing agency for the project must pay the landowner with a fair compensation price to acquire the land in the way of the development, equal to the current market value of the land, as well as replacement costs of structures, crops and trees that need to be removed to give way for the construction project.

The first tranche of the right-of-way payment should be paid by government upon the signing of a deed of absolute sale with the landowner, while the balance should be settled upon the transfer of the land title to the Republic of the Philippines.

The government must also shoulder the capital gains tax, document stamp tax and transfer tax for the proceedings.

In case the landowner does not agree to the price, the bill provides that the government can take the case to the proper court.

In acquiring right of way for projects under the public-private partnerships scheme, the proponent has two options: either pay the dues in advance and have it reimbursed from the government, or recover the costs through tolls and fees levied on road users.

The measure forms part of the priority reform bills of Malacañang and business groups. It will be forwarded to the Senate for a fresh round of talks. — Melissa Luz T. Lopez

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