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Philippine Congress to tackle priority bills as sessions resume

PRESIDENT FERDINAND R. MARCOS JR. delivered his first State of the Nation Address during the joint session of the 19th Congress at the Batasan complex in Quezon City, July 25, 2022. — PHILIPPINE STAR/KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz

THE PHILIPPINE House of Representatives seeks to approve at least six priority measures of the Marcos government that will create more jobs and stimulate the economy as Congress resumes sessions on Monday.

“President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. approved eleven bills designed to address key issues on public health, job creation and further stimulate economic growth as part of his administration’s priority legislation,” Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said in a statement on Sunday.

“These measures will be the focus of our legislative efforts when Congress resumes session this Monday,” he added.

The House has approved five of the 11 measures on final reading. The Senate has yet pass 10 of the bills.

Up for House approval is a bill on the government’s Build, Build, Build program, Mr. Romualdez, who is a cousin of the president, said Congress will also pass bills that seek to revitalize the salt industry, set up a database of the country’s natural resources, modernize the Immigration bureau, enforce a National Employment Action Plan, and strengthen state efforts against smuggling.

The House is waiting for Senate approval of four priority measures — the Maharlika Investment Fund bill, ease of paying taxes, automatic income classification for local governments and authorizing the president to suspend premium rate hikes by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri told DzBB radio the Senate seeks to approve changes to the Build-Operate-Transfer law, create a medical reserve corps, a Center for Disease Control and a Vaccine Institute.

He said they would also approve a measure seeking to tax internet transactions and the Maharlika bill.

Mr. Zubiri said the Senate would likewise prioritize his proposal for a P150 legislated wage increase, as well as the bill revitalizing the salt industry.

Lawmakers should explain to the people how these priority measures will improve their lives, Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a lawyer and policy analyst, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“It’s one thing to come up with a list of priority measures but it’s another thing to build a constituency behind these measures,” he said.

Mr. Romualdez said the House would pass eight remaining priority measures mentioned by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. In his state of the nation address in July.

“It will be on a best-effort basis,” he said in the statement. “We will try to pass the remaining eight bills from the original priority list. If we could do that, we would have approved all the urgent measures identified by President Marcos in less than a year.”

Among the eight is a bill creating a Water Resources department, another creating regional specialty hospitals, an enabling law for the natural gas industry and the proposed National Land Use Act.

Also to be passed is the proposed National Defense Act, changes to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, Budget Modernization Act, and a bill that seeks to reform the pension system for the military and police.

The House will also pass its own priority bills, including the extension of estate tax amnesty and reforms in government procurement, the Speaker said.

The chamber will also create a Disaster Resilience department, a Fishery department, boost livestock development and competitiveness, and pass a wage assistance program for displaced and poor Filipinos.

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