House to focus on nat’l security, economic bills

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
House to focus on nat�l security, economic bills
Facade of the House of Representatives at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The 19th Congress will resume session on April 29, with the House of Representatives focusing on passing measures that intend to enhance national security and promote economic development.

“As we embark on another session this April 29th, our legislative focus sharpens on the dual imperatives of national security and robust development,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said.

“Recognizing that peace is the cornerstone of prosperity, we aim to enact laws that fortify our national defense and enhance our international security posture,” Romualdez told journalists during a forum at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Romualdez, who heads the ruling party Lakas-CMD, said these initiatives are critical in maintaining sovereignty and stability, enabling the nation to pursue development goals without external threats.

He said the House’s development agenda was expansive, targeting pivotal areas such as healthcare, education and digital infrastructure.

“In health care, we are committed to expanding access and improving the quality of services, making health care affordable and accessible to every Filipino,” Romualdez said, adding that initiatives in education aim to create a more liberalized system that not only meets global standards, but also equips the youth with necessary skills to thrive in a globalized economy.

By enhancing digital infrastructure, the country aims to ensure that every Filipino can benefit from the digital revolution, bridging digital divides and fostering economic inclusivity.

Romualdez said that strengthening peace and security, Congress – Senate and the House – could create an environment conducive to economic activities and development initiatives.

He said these initiatives contribute to efforts intended to stabilize the nation by reducing poverty, creating jobs and improving living standards, which diminish the likelihood of social unrest.

“This virtuous cycle is fundamental to sustainable development and is a cornerstone of our legislative agenda,” Romualdez said, noting that he and his colleagues’ goals are ambitious.

“We aim not only to continue our current path but to accelerate our efforts. We are exploring innovative legislative measures that promote technological advancement and environmental sustainability,” he said.

$8.1 billion aid

Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives has approved a measure seeking to provide an $8.1-billion financial package to Washington’s allies in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Philippines and Taiwan.

“This is a momentous occasion that underscores the partnership between our nations and the commitment of the US to fostering stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” Romualdez, who heads the Philippine delegation to the US, said.

Romualdez expressed appreciation to the US House of Representatives for supporting the groundbreaking measure, which he said is crucially beneficial for Filipinos amid escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

Voting 385-34, the US House of Representatives passed the $8.1-billion measure, allocating nearly $4 billion in security assistance to Taiwan, the Philippines and other Indo-Pacific allies.

The amount was on top of the $1.9-billion aid intended to replenish US stocks that have been depleted and $3.3 billion for submarine infrastructure and additional provisions.

“We are grateful for the bipartisan effort that has led to the approval of this crucial assistance, which will undoubtedly strengthen the security and resilience of our region,” Romualdez, who lobbied for the approval of the $8.1-billion emergency aid package for key allies, added.

During the debate, one amendment was adopted to express support for ensuring that security assistance in the bill reaches the Philippines.

Romualdez thanked Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who introduced the amendment to the bill, which encouraged the US State Department to allocate $500 million in foreign military financing to the Philippines.

“The passage of this amendment underscores the deepening partnership between our nations and highlights the US’s commitment to enhancing the defense capabilities of the Philippines,” he said.

The approval of the bipartisan measure came amid deliberations between the Philippine House delegation led by Romualdez and several US legislators at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

These deliberations coincided with the trilateral summit among US President Joe Biden, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Marcos.

“The constructive dialogue and shared vision exhibited during our meetings exemplify the enduring partnership between our nations,” the Speaker said. “This aid package symbolizes our collective resolve to fortify the bonds of friendship and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.”

The $8.1-billion assistance to the Indo-Pacific is integral to the $95.3-billion emergency aid package, which included vital support for key US allies such as Ukraine and Israel.

The measure will now proceed to the Senate for final voting.

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