House passes over 800 measures in pandemic year

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
House passes over 800 measures in pandemic year
In its annual legislative performance report, the House under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said it has passed a total of 803 measures during the second regular session of this 18th Congress.
STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has passed over 800 legislative measures in the past year despite challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its annual legislative performance report, the House under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said it has passed a total of 803 measures during the second regular session of this 18th Congress.

Among these measures were 501 bills passed or approved on third and final reading, 72 of which were enacted into laws.

The House also passed 131 resolutions since July last year, even when Congress had to prioritize pandemic response measures, and able to pass 20 out of 30 measures in the Common Legislative Agenda of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council or LEDAC, consisting mostly of the legislative priorities of President Duterte.

Five out of these 20 measures were enacted into law, while the rest were transmitted to the Senate for its corresponding action.

In the report entitled “Paving the Nation’s Path to Recovery,” the House said it has pursued “a legislative agenda anchored on saving lives, sustaining economic growth and spearheading a public policy that is responsive and effective to the health crisis.”

Aside from the legislative priorities in the common legislative agenda of the LEDAC, the House enacted key measures meant to directly address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foremost of these measures are the two Bayanihan laws – Republic Acts 11469 and 11494 – which provided P250 billion in emergency subsidies to affected families and workers and a P165-billion economic rescue package, respectively.

To make funds available for pandemic response initiatives and provide safeguards to ensure its proper utilization, the House ensured the timely passage of the 2021 General Appropriations Act.

It also pushed for the extension of the availability of funds appropriated through Bayanihan 2 until June 30, 2021, and the P4.1-trillion 2020 General Appropriations Act until Dec. 31, 2021.

The House said its priorities are two-fold: to help all Filipinos impacted by the pandemic, and to revive and rebuild the country’s economy.

"With these priorities in mind, the House has not let the prevailing situation distract itself from the work that has to be done. The House has performed commendably in spite of the current limitations and challenges,” read the report.

Since financing the stimulus packages was a challenge, the House passed two significant economic measures designed to complement the national budget and help absorb the large financial shock: the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law (RA 11534) and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) law (RA 11523).

CREATE is the largest stimulus package for enterprises in the country’s history as it provides them with hefty corporate income tax cuts.

According to the Department of Finance, CREATE is expected to provide more than P1 trillion worth of tax relief over the next 10 years.

FIST, on the other hand, allows banks to free up much-needed liquidity for lending to the productive sectors of the economy, a crucial step to its recovery. This reform is critical in keeping local banks strong and ready to finance productive economic activity.

“These reforms ensure that opportunities and benefits of economic growth are more equitably shared. Moreover, these measures illustrate that we do not sacrifice our environment for economic growth,” the report said.

The House likewise passed a measure geared toward economic recovery and expansion – Resolution of Both Houses No. 2. This measure pushes for amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution to offer flexibility in foreign ownership rules of certain sectors and industries that would facilitate foreign direct investments, which could offer employment and choices to Filipinos.

With strong political will, the House also cleared the hurdle of passing difficult but landmark measures, such as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act (RA 11524) and Amendments to the 2001 Anti-Money Laundering Act or AMLA (RA 11521).

RA 11524 is the most practicable source of funds that could address the economic difficulties of coconut farmers especially during this time of pandemic. It provides a mechanism to protect the rights, welfare and interest of small coconut farmers and farm workers.

With the amendments to AMLA, the Philippines institutionalized a stronger legal framework to address gaps in money laundering and counter-terrorism financing.

As the country starts to reopen the economy, the House vowed to consider “the remaining measures that will secure our people’s health and safety and create spaces for opportunities that will hasten our economic recovery.”

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