Health, labor bills among Senate's priorities as Congress reopens

Health, labor bills among Senate's priorities as Congress reopens
Member of the Senate attend the inaugural session of the Second Regular Session of the 19th Congress on July 24, 2023.
Senate of the Philippines YouTube channel

MANILA, Philippines — Bills pending from the previous year, including proposals for a Philippine Center for Disease Control, were among the priority bills that Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri urged his colleagues to pass as the Senate returned from break on Monday.

Although Congress usually takes its cue from the State of the Nation Address, chambers also set their own legislative priorities.

"To a people scarred by the recent pandemic, never must we be caught flat-footed again," Zubiri said as he batted for passage of bills to create a local CDC and the Virology Institute of the Philippines.

The proposals, as well as a bill to create a Medical Reserve Corps, were among those that President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. urged Congress to pass in his first SONA.

Apart from cues from the SONA, the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office helps coordinate between the Palace and Congress on administration measures.

Zubiri also urged his colleagues to update the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling law "so that the flood of imports will not drown the crops that they grow." The Department of Justice this month announced it will be leading a multi-agency task force against smuggling, which has been blamed for spikes in the prices of produce, including onions.

RELATED: These are the 19 measures Marcos Jr. asked Congress to pass

Also included in Zubiri's speech were bills for a waste-to-energy framework that he said will help solve the country's problems with solid waste and with energy supply. 

Zubiri, who has been pushing a legislated wage hike at the Senate, also called on his colleagues to support legislation for workers, including a proposed Magna Carta for Seafarers that he said will serve as a "safe harbor to protect them." 

Zubiri said that he looks forward to the SONA on Monday afternoon as "a reckoning [that] should give us bearing on where we are now and where we are going." He said that while the members of the Senate might have different perspectives "we do agree on the most important point that the Senate had a major role to play in conquering the challenges before us."

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