Only 2 priority measures in SONA await House OK

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Only 2 priority measures in SONA await House OK
President Rodrigo Duterte is joined by Senate President Tito Sotto and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco at Congress during his last State of the Nation Address on July 26, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Only two of the 12 priority measures laid out by President Duterte in his July 26 State of the Nation Address have yet to be passed by the House of Representatives.

Records have shown that only the bill for a unified system of separation, retirement and pension for uniformed personnel along with Duterte’s specific SONA request for “free legal assistance for policemen and soldiers” have remained in the House committee level.

A check by The STAR indicated that three “investment-friendly bills” – Foreign Investments Act (House Bill 0300), Public Service Act (HB 0078) and Retail Trade Liberalization Act (HB 0059) – have already been approved by administration lawmakers.

Other bills include the Departments of Overseas Filipinos (HB 5832), Disaster Resilience (HB 5989), E-Governance Act (HB 6927), Bureau of Fire Protection Modernization Act (HB 7406) and the Law Mandating Evacuation Centers for provinces, cities and towns (HB 8990).

The proposed Virology Institute of the Philippines (HB 9559) and Creation of a Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (HB 9560), both authored by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, were approved by the House on third and final reading last July 28.

Six of these priority measures remain pending in the Senate, among them the FIA, PSA, Departments of Overseas Filipinos, Disaster Resilience, E-Governance Act and the law mandating evacuation centers for provinces, cities and municipalities.

Among the bills pending deliberation in the bicameral conference committee are the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the BFP Modernization Act, which has been ratified by the bicam or both chambers of Congress – the Senate and the House.

Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, a senior administration lawmaker, said the House has approved a majority of the pieces of legislation that Duterte wanted passed and stressed that the chamber would be willing to work harder.

“The House has already approved most of these measures. I’m very confident that we will be able to approve the remaining priority measures before the third regular session of the 18th Congress ends,” he said, referring to June 2022 when Duterte steps down.

The taxation of Philippine offshore gaming operators and E-sabong betting activities that Speaker Lord Allan Velasco wanted passed were also approved by legislators.

The POGO bill is now undergoing deliberations in the bicameral conference committee level.

“As we enter the final year of our present term in Congress, it is time for that one last big push,” Velasco told his colleagues when he opened the session last July 26, giving emphasis on measures aimed at recovering from the global health crisis.

This is the third regular session of the 18th Congress, which started in mid-2019 and will end in mid-2022.

“To assist in our economic recovery, we are pushing for the taxation of POGO and E-sabong betting activities,” the Marinduque congressman said, adding they will also approve medical facilities that will help solve health crisis like COVID-19.

“Now is not the time for divisive politics. We have to work as a team – and act fast – to save precious human lives and to bounce back from the economic ravages brought by the global pandemic,” House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.

Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said the President did “a great job,” bringing “meaningful change to the Filipino people through his no-nonsense policies particularly in the area of peace and order as seen in his war against illegal drugs.”

Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero (1Pacman party-list), who presided over the resumption of session Monday, said the House leadership under Velasco remains “focused on the legislative agenda” of the Duterte administration.

“We will renew our push for reviving the country’s battered economy, and will work for ways where we will be creating more jobs, and helping small businesses operate safely under the new normal,” the president of the Party-list Coalition Foundation said.

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