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Speaker: House off to good start in 19th Congress

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Speaker: House off to good start in 19th Congress
Members of the Congress are seen inside the Plenary Hall for the opening of the 19th Congress at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City on July 25, 2022.
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — More than two months since the 19th Congress convened, the House of Representatives has gotten off to a good start, having passed several pieces of legislation, primarily the P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023, according to Speaker Martin Romualdez.

“Our mission from Day One is clear: help resuscitate the pandemic-battered economy and make economic transformation the main engine to uplift the lives of the Filipino people,” Romualdez said in his remarks before the Oct. 1 adjournment.

Under the Leyte congressman’s leadership, the House had in fact processed 427 bills and resolutions, or an average of 19 measures per session day during the 23 session days from July 25, the day President Marcos delivered his first State of the Nation Address, to Sept. 28, when the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2023 was passed.

The House also approved 37 bills on third and final reading, passed 11 measures on second reading and adopted 20 resolutions, including Concurrent Resolution 2 supporting the 2022-2028 Medium Term Fiscal Framework of the Marcos administration.

“With a deep sense of urgency, combined with the detailed scrutiny from our colleagues in the minority, we were also able to hammer out in no time the best possible version for the approval on third reading of HB 4488 (GAB),” Romualdez said.

It was also a job well done insofar as House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe is concerned, as he noted that a total of 5,696 measures were filed – 5,226 bills and 470 resolutions – and 63 committee reports.

“The House record accomplishment would not be possible without the hard work of Speaker Romualdez, our colleagues both in the majority and the minority, House secretariat, officials and employees,” Dalipe, who chairs the House committee on rules, said.

“The House has worked efficiently and diligently for the timely passage of the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for next year,” he added, stressing that Romualdez has been spearheading the lower chamber to what he dubbed as “solid efficiency.”

Dalipe noted that the 427 total measures processed so far in the 19th Congress is 96 percent higher than the 218 measures processed during the 18th Congress from July 2019 to June 2022.

He commended the hardworking House officials, secretariat and other employees who have been helping the leadership in shepherding the approval of pro-people priority legislation that cater to their needs, especially in these challenging and difficult times.

More for health, education

A total of P77.5 billion in additional funds have been allocated primarily in the health and education departments by the small committee that Romualdez created for the purpose of adjusting the House-approved national budget for 2023.

“I’m pleased that the House-approved version of the General Appropriations Bill responds to the most urgent needs of Filipinos,” he said, commending Reps. Zaldy Co of Ako Bicol party-list and Stella Luz Quimbo of Marikina’s 2nd District for “acting expeditiously, yet cautiously, on the proposed amendments.”

Co chairs the House appropriations committee while Quimbo sits as senior vice chair of the same panel. Both are members of the small committee, along with Dalipe and Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan.

“We need to ensure that social services are sufficient for the greater good of our countrymen, especially those in dire need of basic social services to survive,” Romualdez said.

While the fiscal space is very limited, Co said his committee endeavored to free up appropriations from agencies whose funds are unlikely to be fully utilized in 2023, based on historical performance or specific circumstances of their spending program.

He noted that the bulk of the additional allocation for institutional amendments introduced by the House in the 2023 GAB came from deduction in programs and projects “whose budget may be allocated in succeeding fiscal years.”

These include the P50 billion deducted from the Department of Transportation’s proposed budget for the Metro Manila Subway Project and the North-South Railway Commuter for 2023.

“The idea is to allocate more budget for pro-people programs and projects without the need of imposing new taxes. One thing is sure: all major infrastructure projects will proceed as scheduled based on a timetable that is implementable for 2023,” Co said.

Meanwhile, former president and incumbent Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo commended Marcos for a job well done in his first 100 days in office since he assumed the presidency on June 30.

In a statement sent to reporters covering the House, the Pampanga congresswoman praised the Chief Executive who, like her, is also a child of a former president, for doing good and putting in his heart first the interest of 110 million Filipinos.

“President Marcos Jr. reassured everyone by assembling an impressive economic team that has been universally praised,” she said, noting that the issue is not only the Ukraine war, but also tensions between China and Taiwan.

CONGRESS

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

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