House, Senate to pass admin priority bills by June

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
House, Senate to pass admin priority bills by June
President Marcos talks with Speaker Martin Romualdez and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri after the 4th Legislative_Executive Development Advisory Council meeting at Malacañang yesterday.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers yesterday vowed to pass all priority bills of the Marcos administration by June, including measures that seek to restore the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), delineate the Philippines’ maritime zones and amend the laws on agricultural smuggling and government procurement.

The commitment was made during the fourth Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting led by President Marcos at Malacañang.

“Many of the requests made by our President here in LEDAC have been approved by both houses of Congress and are already in their final stages. Either they are awaiting the signature of the President or in the bicameral conference committee meetings, which are going to be a law very, very soon,” a Palace statement quoted Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri as saying.

“We still have pending bills, but we committed to the President all 23 measures. Hopefully we’ll be done by June, before the Senate goes on a break. That is our commitment to the House of Representatives together with the President. But we’re on track to pass all of these by June,” Zubiri added.

He said 15 measures would be passed before the Senate goes on sine die adjournment while the remaining eight would be approved in June.

Speaker Martin Romualdez said his chamber has completed passing all the LEDAC priority measures and has transmitted these to the Senate.

“The House has to finish these before these are brought to the Senate. That’s why we always focus on our LEDAC priority measures, so deliberations in the Senate will not be delayed. We did not rush them but we worked overtime in the House,” Romualdez said.

Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said 21 bills were identified as priority for passage by June during the 6th LEDAC technical working group meeting on Jan. 16.

The list was narrowed down to 15 due to the limited number of session days remaining.

The LEDAC decided to add five more priority bills that support the social and economic measures to be passed in June.

These priority bills are the proposed Open Access in Digital Transmission Act, Enterprise-based Education Program or Apprenticeship Act, CREATE More, An Act Creating the Department of Water Management and amendments to the Universal Health Care Act.

The 15 priority bills that Congress aims to pass by the end of June include amendments to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act or Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act, the proposed Self-Reliant Defense Posture Act, the Philippine Maritime Zones Act, Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act, Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System and the Negros Island Region Act.

Other priority measures are the mandatory ROTC and National Service Training Program, Anti-Financial Accounts Scamming Act, value-added tax on digital services, proposed amendments to the Government Procurement Reform Act, the proposed Blue Economy Act, waste-to-energy bill, the Unified System of Separation, Retirement and Pension of Military and Uniformed Personnel, the E-Government Act or E-Governance Act and the proposed Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning Program Act.

Of the 57 measures in the common legislative agenda for the 19th Congress, 14 have been signed into law and the rest are still in various stages of legislation.

The bills that have been signed into law include the SIM Card Registration Act, postponement of the barangay and SK elections, strengthening professionalism in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, New Agrarian Emancipation Act, Maharlika Investment Fund, Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act, Public-Private Partnership Code of the Philippines, regional specialty centers, automatic income classification of local government units, Internet Transactions Act, Ease of Paying Taxes Act, Tatak Pinoy or Proudly Filipino Act,  Philippine Salt Industry Development Act and the New Philippine Passport Act.

Meanwhile, Romualdez said the House finished passing ahead of schedule all priority bills that Marcos listed in the LEDAC.

“We have done our homework and all the 19 measures reprioritized for target by June 2024 have been approved on the third and final reading by the House,” Romualdez said in his report during the LEDAC meeting at Malacañang.

“This shows that this House of the People is a proactive chamber that caters and listens to the needs of the people, passing needed legislation attuned to the Philippine Development Plan and the 8-point socio-economic agenda under the medium-term fiscal framework,” he added.

Romualdez said he was honored to report that the House is working hard toward realizing the common legislative agenda of the executive and legislative branches.

He said as of September last year, the House has approved all 20 LEDAC priority bills targeted for passage by December 2023, or three months ahead of schedule.

Maritime zones

The Senate has approved in plenary session the reconciled versions of the Philippine Maritime Zones Bill that delineates the country’s maritime zones following the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Ruling and other international laws.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, chair of the special committee on Philippine maritime and admiralty zones, presented the bicameral report that consolidated Senate Bill 2492 and House Bill 7819, which he said adopted the title “An Act Declaring the Maritime Zones Under the Jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Tolentino said the bicameral panel adopted Sections 1 to 13 and 15 to 20 of SB 2492, which became the working draft of the consolidated version.

He said Section 14 of SB 2492 and Section 12 of HB 7819 were merged to become Section 14 of the consolidated bill, providing for “due regard and mutual respect.”

“The Philippines shall give due regard to the rights and duties of foreign states, and foreign states shall act with due regard to the rights and duties of the Philippines relative to maritime zones as provided under this Act, UNCLOS and international law,” Tolentino said, as he read the part of Section 14 of the consolidated bill.

Continuing with the consolidated bill’s mutual respect provision, Tolentino said the Philippines shall recognize the rights and privileges of foreign vessels and aircraft in its maritime zones under the provision of reciprocity and mutual respect.

He said the Philippines reserves the right to take necessary legal and diplomatic action against States whose vessels and aircraft do not abide by, or act inconsistently with, the UNCLOS and international law.

Tolentino said the Philippine Maritime Zones Law stands as a testament to the country’s adherence to the principles of international law, particularly the international law of the sea, by delineating our maritime zones in accordance with the UNCLOS guidelines.

“We assert our sovereign rights over our maritime domain while upholding our obligations as a responsible member of the international community,” Tolentino said. — Delon Porcalla

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