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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Congress passes several crucial priority measures

Speaker Martin G. Romualdez congratulated the House of Representatives for the speedy passage of 20 pieces of legislation aimed at uplifting the lives of the Filipino people.

He reported “mission accomplished” to members of the House, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., and the nation before the 19th Congress adjourned for the first recess of its second regular session on Wednesday night.

In the Senate, 18 measures, five of which were included in the President’s list of priority bills, were approved by senators over three days before the end of the second regular session of the current Congress.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the chamber buckled down to work on the last week of their regular plenary session before the legislature goes on a monthlong break starting Sept. 30.

“Once signed into law, these measures will help shore up the Marcos administration’s initiatives to make the Philippines a prime investment destination,” Zubiri said.

Meanwhile, Romualdez also authorized all standing and special committees of the House to hold hearings during the congressional break.

In her formal motion in the plenary, House Deputy Majority Leader and Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas moved to allow all committees to continue their work of producing legislation during the break from Sept. 28 to Nov. 5, 2023.

Romualdez expressed his “heartfelt appreciation and profound gratitude” to his colleagues, including members of the minority, and House personnel for his chamber’s record accomplishment.

He recalled that last July 5, during the second full meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), 20 priority bills were targeted for approval by both houses of Congress by the end of December.

As of adjournment time, Romualdez said he was proud to report that the House has approved all 20 measures LEDAC members agreed to have Congress pass by the end of this year.

“We are three months ahead of target… thanks for all your help,” Romualdez, the head of the 311-strong House of Representatives, said.

“I have no doubt that our collective action, imbued with competence and a passion for public service, led us to deliver responsive and relevant legislative measures required to champion social justice and economic development,” he said.

Romualdez cited the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024 among the priority measures passed by the House (see related story on A1 – Editors).

“We are confident that every centavo reflects the overarching targets of ushering economic transformation towards inclusivity and sustainability and is in line with the administration’s medium-term fiscal framework, the 8-point socioeconomic agenda, and the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028,” he said.

Though the budget deliberations were transparent, Romualdez admitted they were at times difficult, including discussions on the use of intelligence and confidential funds.

“We underscored the need for agencies to abide by the strict accounting and auditing rules governing the handling and release of such funds, and emphasized the need to safeguard their efficient and responsible utilization,” he said.

He pointed out that during its consideration of the budget, the House listened to the people about issues and problems they have to face every day and the solutions they offered.

Romualdez enumerated the 20 LEDAC-agreed priority bills the House has approved, including two the President may sign into law soon: House Bill (HB) 7006, or Automatic Income Classification Act for Local Government Units, and HB 8278 or the Philippine Salt Industry Development Act.

“The Trabaho para sa Bayan Act was signed into law earlier today (Wednesday) while five of these 20 priority measures are inches away from becoming a law,” Romualdez said.

The 14 other measures passed on the third and final reading are:

(1) HB 6522 – Philippine Centers for Disease Prevention and Control Act;

(2) HB 6518 – Health Auxiliary Reinforcement Team Act;

(3) HB 6452 – Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines Act;

(4) HB 6687 – Instituting a National Citizens Service Program;

(5) HB 6558 – Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act;

(6) HB 7327 – E-Governance/E-Government Act;

(7) HB 6444 – Waste Treatment Technology Act;

(8) HB 6510 – New Philippine Passport Act;

(9) HB 7325 – Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers;

(10) HB 7240 – National Government Rightsizing Act;

(11) HB 7393 – Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act;

(12) HB 7446 – Amending the Bank Secrecy Law;

(13) HB 8969 – Military and Other Uniformed Personnel Pension Act;

(14) HB 9284 – Anti Agri-fishery Commodities and Tobacco Economic Sabotage Act of 2023;

Likewise, President Marcos signed into law the Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act (National Employment Recovery Strategy) as Republic Act (RA) 11962.

HB 7006 or the “Automatic Income Classification Act for Local Government Units” has been transmitted to Malacañang for appropriate action.

The House adopted Senate Bill 1846 as an amendment to HB 0004 or the Internet Transactions or E-Commerce Law.

On Wednesday, the House ratified conference committee reports on HB 6527, or the Public-Private Partnership Act, and HB 4125, or the Ease of Paying Taxes Act;

HB 8278, or the proposed Philippine Salt Industry Development Act is undergoing deliberations in the bicameral conference committee, bringing to 20 the total measures the House has approved from the LEDAC bills it committed to pass at the end of the year.

On Wednesday, senators ratified Senate Bill No. 2224 (Ease of Paying Taxes Act) and Senate Bill No. 2233 (Public Private Partnership Act), three days after both measures hurdled the upper chamber’s final deliberations.

Senate Bill No. 2221, or the proposed Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers, was likewise approved on third and final reading after the President certified its passage as urgent.

Last Monday, Zubiri said 17 measures got through the third and final reading in the Senate.

Among these were Senate Bill No. 2001 (New Philippine Passport Act), Senate Bill No. 1846 (Internet Transactions Act), Senate Bill No. 2224 (Ease of Paying Taxes Act) and Senate Bill No. 2233 (Public Private Partnership Act).

A bill of national significance, Senate Bill No. 2028 (An Act Recognizing the Octogenarians, Nonagenarians and Centenarians), also secured the nod of the senators. This will give cash incentives of P10,000, P20,000, and P100,000 for senior citizens reaching 80, 90, and 100 years old, respectively.

Twelve other local bills on state colleges and universities in various parts of the country were also passed by the Senate.


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