House political parties back priority bills passage

LEADERSHIP IN ACTION. Speaker Martin Romualdez , House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, and House Secretary General Reginald Velasco meet with House party leaders Monday evening to discuss steps that need to be taken to hasten the approval of the remaining administration priority measures. Ver Noveno

Political parties in the House of Representatives have committed to support the passage of 13 remaining priority bills of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. before the sine die adjournment next month.

Leaders of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), PDP-Laban, Nacionalista Party (NP), National Unity Party (NUP), Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and Party-list Coalition Foundation, Inc. (PCFI) gave the commitment during an all-party caucus on Monday presided over by Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez

The Speaker, who is president of Lakas-CMD, expressed his gratitude to his colleagues for supporting his goal to have the chamber approve most, if not all, of the 13 remaining priority bills on the third and final reading before next month’s adjournment.

“We will try to achieve that objective on a best-effort basis. The bills on deck will complement those that we have already passed and which support the Agenda for Prosperity and eight-point socioeconomic roadmap of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.,” Romualdez said.

Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. and Reps. Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur and Rida Robes of San Jose City represented PDP-Laban in the party leaders’ caucus.

NP was represented by Reps. Eleandro Jesus Madrona of Romblon, Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte, and Janette Garin of Iloilo.

NPC was represented by Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga and Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Meehan Singson, and NUP by Antipolo City Rep. Robbie Puno and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte.

Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, PCFI president, spoke for his group.

Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, BHW Party-list Rep. Angelica Natasha Co, and Bicol Saro Party-list Rep. Brian Yamsuan also joined the meeting.

Romualdez convened the caucus shortly after presiding over the first day of session Monday after the Holy Week recess of Congress.

He told his colleagues they have only four weeks to approve the remaining priority bills, asking them to maximize the time so that the House could pass all the urgent measures identified by President Marcos in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July last year and later adopted by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

Gonzales said he and other party leaders responded positively to the Speaker’s appeal.

“We hope we could do it in the short time we have before our annual mandatory adjournment. We are ready to go the extra mile to accomplish the task,” Gonzales said.

For his part, Barbers said: “President Marcos’ legislative priority will benefit the Filipino people and these measures deserve our support.”

On Sunday, Romualdez revealed that President Marcos approved 11 additional bills, including the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill, as part of the LEDAC agenda, bringing to 42 from the original 31 the total number of priority administration measures.

On Monday, the House approved on the third and final reading House Bill 7751, or the proposed Department of Health Specialty Centers in Hospitals Act, which aims to expand healthcare services by establishing specialized care centers in hospitals under the supervision and control of the Department of Health (DoH).

This was part of the original eight remaining SONA-LEDAC priority measures the House is aiming to approve in the homestretch of the First Regular Session of the 19th Congress.

The seven other bills from original LEDAC measures are the enabling law for the natural gas industry, National Land Use Act, Department of Water Resources and Services and creation of Water Regulatory Commission, Budget Modernization Act, National Defense Act, amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, and the bill on a unified system of separation, retirement, and pension for uniformed personnel.

The six measures from 11 new LEDAC bills are 1) Bureau of Immigration Modernization and 2) Infrastructure Development Plan/Build Build Build Program, which is now for committee report preparation;

3) Philippine Salt Industry Development Act; 4) Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System (PENCAS), 5) National Employment Action Plan, and 6) Amendment to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act are under committee/technical working group (TWG) status.

The five measures from 11 new LEDAC bills that were already approved by the House of Representatives are: 1) Amending the AFP Fixed Term Bill (transmitted to the President), 2) Ease of Paying Taxes, 3) Maharlika Investment Fund, 4) Local Government Unit Income Classification, and 5) Amendment to Universal Health Care Act, all of which were already transmitted to the Senate.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri also confirmed the 11 additional measures, which were set to top the Senate agenda as Congress session resumed on Monday.

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

“It will be on a best-effort basis. 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,” he said.

Zubiri, for his part, said the Senate is committed to pursuing the passage of the Maharlika Fund bill despite the initial lukewarm response of the Upper Chamber to the measure.

“We hope to end the debates on the MIF bill by the end of the month. Hopefully, we can ratify (the bill) by the first week of June, before we go on sine die break,” he said in a radio interview.

Zubiri said the Senate’s final version of the bill will have more safeguards.

“We can assure the public that we have sufficient safeguards to ensure that the MIF would not be used for corruption, personal gain, or for money laundering. It will be managed by professionals, not by political appointees. The fund would also be subjected to audit by top financial institutions,” he said.

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