House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Sunday said Congress would expedite the passage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s priority measures, including bills creating executive departments for Filipino overseas workers, water resources and disaster resilience before the next adjournment in March.
“We aim to hit the ground running when session resumes on Monday [Jan. 20]. Time to roll up our sleeves once again and work double time on vital legislative measures,” Romualdez said. “The speaker made a clear instruction to pass these bills. No less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself called on Congress to work on these measures during his fourth State of the Nation Address last July.”
Congress would vote on third and final reading other vital measures, he cited.
“This includes House Bill No. 5673 authorizing the Department of Health to set and approve the bed capacity and service capability of all DoH-retained hospitals in all parts of the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said Congress must prioritize mobilizing the necessary material and policy assistance for districts affected by Taal’s eruption and investigate alleged lapses in warning afterward when the crisis has passed.
“We must help first and investigate later,” Salceda said.
The Palace on Sunday said it is open to a lawmaker’s proposal to create a commission that will oversee the rehabilitation of areas in Batangas and Cavite affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption.
“All good proposals will be studied and we will implement it if it will be for the benefit of the public,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in Filipino in an interview over radio dzIQ.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, a native of Batangas, earlier said he planned to file a bill creating a Taal Commission to be patterned after the Pinatubo Commission that helped victims of the 1991 volcano eruption in Central Luzon.
Panelo said it will be up to President Duterte to decide whether he will certify the bill as urgent.
Under Republic Act 7637, the Mt. Pinatubo Assistance, Resettlement and Development Commission was created in 1992 which set aside P10-billion funds to help victims in the communities affected by Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption.
READ: Congress needs to okay P10 billion more for Taal victims—Win
The 11-member commission had the power to formulate policies and plans for the relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and livelihood services as well as infrastructure support in affected areas in Central Luzon.
On Monday (Jan. 20), Duterte is expected to lead the ceremonial distribution of food packs to families affected by the Taal Volcano eruption at the PUP Gymnasium in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.
READ: Rody sets visit to volcano victims
Panelo said the President also decided to inspect the areas since he was unable to do so when he went to Batangas Sports Complex on Jan. 14.
Duterte’s second visit to Batangas is meant to determine whether there is a need to come up with additional contingency measures for evacuees who were forced to evacuate.
He first visited Batangas three days after the volcano started spewing ash to lead a situation briefing and comfort those who fled their homes due to the volcano’s unrest.
He also handed over P7.5 million to farmers and another P3.5 million to the fishermen for their livelihood.
To protect residents living near Taal Volcano from the threat of a hazardous eruption, Duterte has approved the recommendation of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to declare Taal Island as “no man’s land” with no permanent habitation.
In related developments:
• The Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list group said on Sunday schools should not be used to house calamity victims. Instead, the government should build more evacuation centers, it said. About 96,000 people are in evacuation centers in Batangas, Laguna and Cavite provinces due to the Taal Volcano eruption, and evacuees took shelter in about 19 schools in the CALABARZON area that can not be used for classes in the meantime. ACT Party-list Rep. France Castro said the government should instead build a common evacuation center for every two or three barangays.
• The Department of Energy said it would look into possible threats to Luzon’s energy infrastructure in Batangas province and to prepare contigency plans. “There are concerns that the volcano’s looming violent flare-up might get in the way of the operations of vital power plants as well as oil and gas installations in Batangas,” Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said on Sunday. “Apart from the vulnerability of [power plant] turbines to damage from severe ash fall, there are also concerns about the sensitivity of fuel facilities in the province to recurring volcanic tremors,” Campos said. With PNAREAD: PETA comes to rescue of abandoned animalsREAD: Sanctions up vs. hoarding, overpricingREAD: Atom-bomb like blast feared
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