From mines to PUVs, franchises should be granted by Congress – Speaker

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Pantaleon Alvarez
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is seen in file photo with Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas at a House of Representatives hearing. (House of Representatives photo)

MANILA, Philippines — From mining to casinos, lotteries to public utility vehicles, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wants practically all businesses requiring franchises to operate in the country to apply for and secure these only from Congress.

Alvarez said he will author a bill or several bills to amend the laws or charters governing such businesses to give Congress the sole power to grant their franchises.

Iyon talaga ang (That really is the) power ng Congress, all franchises kailangan manggagaling sa (should come from) Congress,” Alvarez said.

Ngayon, parang dinelegate lang ng Congress. Ngayon, I think kailangang bawiin na ulit ng Congress dahil nga sa dami ng problema na nangyayari, kasama na iyong nangyari sa Resorts World, itong mga nagkakagulo na STL (Congress has merely delegated this power. I think Congress should take it back because of the many problems happening, including the Resorts World incident and the troubles with the small town lottery),” he said.

The June 2 rampage at the Resorts World claimed 38 lives, including that of the gunman who fired shots and torched gaming tables and slot machines at the casino.

Lawmakers are inclined to blame lax security at the casino as a major reason for the tragedy.

Among others, Alvarez said he will file a bill changing the name of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation to Philippine Games and Amusement Authority and give it purely regulatory powers.

“Pagcor will no longer be allowed to operate casinos and Pagcor will no longer be allowed to issue licenses.  All franchises will now emanate from Congress,” he said.

“It will be the same case for PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office),” he added. “They will be no longer allowed to operate lottery and to give any type of license for small town lottery.  Lahat ‘yan kailangan nang pumunta sa Kongreso (All that should be with Congress).”

As for mining, he said there is a need to be stricter in issuing licenses to ensure companies have the capacity to engage in the business.

“In the previous administrations, binibigyan ng franchise kahit walang capability to operate.  Ang ginagawa lang, tini-turn around, binebenta ang license, iyong mga requirements na dapat pinapatupad ng DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) ay nai-ignore (franchises were granted even without capability to operate. What was done was they turned around, sold the licenses, the requirements supposed to be imposed by the DENR were ignored),” he said.

Republic Act 9487 or the Pagcor Charter gives the agency the “authority and power” to “authorize, license and regulate games of chance, games of cards and games of numbers.”

Republic Act 1169 mandates the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to “hold and conduct charity sweepstakes races, lotteries, and other similar activities.”

The DENR, meanwhile, issues mining permits while the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is the body in charge of issuing franchises to operate public utility vehicles.

When they become law, Alvarez said the franchise-related measures he envisions would revoke existing licenses and franchises and give businesses one year to apply for new franchises from Congress.

The House has a committee on legislative franchises whose jurisdiction covers “all matters directly and principally relating to the grant, amendment, extension or revocation of franchises.”