House pushes bills before break

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Monday rallied fellow lawmakers at the House of Representatives to exert a final concerted push in the remaining four weeks of their session to pass the pending pro-people priority measures of the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.

Addressing the plenary during the resumption of the session of the House, Romualdez welcomed back House members, expressing hope they had ample rest during the break, as he outlined the task they have to accomplish before the sine die adjournment of the First Regular Session of the 19th Congress on June 2.

PUSHING BILLS. Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez presides over Monday’s opening of the plenary session at the House of Representatives as he rallies support from his colleagues for the passage of the remaining priority measures of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. before the sine die adjournment next month. Ver Noveno

“As we face the remainder of the First Regular Session, we have merely four weeks to complete our legislative agenda that has been prescribed by no less than our President in his first SONA plus those that have been identified as priority measures in the LEDAC (Legislative Executive Advisory Council),” Romualdez said.

“Later this afternoon (Monday) I will engage with our party leaders to see how we can make sure that the remainder of these four weeks before we adjourn sine die is used most efficiently and maximized so that we can achieve our goals in making sure that the common legislative agenda, not just of both Houses, but that of the Executive are achieved,” he added.

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

The 11 bills include 1. Amending the AFP Fixed Term Bill, which was 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, which were already sent to the Senate; 6. Bureau of Immigration Modernization and 7. Infrastructure Development Plan/Build Build BuildProgram, which is now for committee report preparation; 8. Philippine Salt Industry Development Act; 9. Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System (PENCAS), 10. National Employment Action Plan, and 11. Amendment to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, which is under committee/technical working group (TWG) meeting.

“I implore all of you to continue the hard work that has now become the hallmark of the 19th Congress, a most hard-working and diligent Congress we have been. And I believe that we can still do much, much more in the furtherance of the interest of the Filipino people. Maraming maraming salamat sa trabaho, sa paglingkod ninyo sa bayan. Mabuhay po ang Kongreso. Mabuhay po kayong lahat,” Romualdez said.

Before this, the Speaker reported to the House plenary the results of the five-day official visit of President Marcos to the United States, which he characterized as “the most productive and the most successful one and has brought Philippine-US relations to its greatest heights in recent years.”

“I’m proud to say that we, in conjunction with the Executive, had done our work with our counterparts in Capitol Hill in furthering and in enhancing and in deepening the relationships between the two countries, the Philippines and the United States—long historical allies—particularly during this period of uncertainty, post-COVID and the tensions that affect our region,” he added.

The Speaker had accompanied Pres. Marcos in his various engagements, including those with US President Joe Biden, US Vice President Kamala

Harris, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and ranking members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Meanwhile, the House approved on third and final reading bills such as:

  • the establishment of specialized care centers in Department of

    Health hospitals;
  • giving P1 million cash gift to pinoy centenarians; and
  • providing mandatory insurance, other benefits to power line workers

With an overwhelming 256 votes, the lower chamber passed House Bill (HB) 7751, or the proposed Department of Health Specialty Centers Act,

with Romualdez as one of the principal authors. The bill aims to expand healthcare services by establishing specialized care centers in

hospitals under the supervision and control of the Department of Health (DoH).

Romualdez said the establishment of these facilities “would make specialized health care accessible to our people in the provinces,

especially the poor.” “We have specialty hospitals built during the time of the father of President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.,

President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., but all of these are in Quezon City.

So our people in the regions and in Visayas and Mindanao who need the services of these health facilities will have to travel all the way to

Quezon City to avail of their services,” he said.

The House leader was referring to the Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines, and Philippine Children’s Medical Center, located not far from each other on East Avenue and Quezon Avenue.

Additionally, there is the Philippine Orthopedic Hospital in Banawe, also in Quezon City.

Romualdez noted that many Filipinos are suffering from heart, kidney, and lung ailments, which are among the top health problems in the

country today. “So we need more specialty centers, not necessarily rising to the level of a hospital, like those in Quezon City to treat

and care for our people requiring specialized health care in the provinces,” he said.

He said this is the reason why President Marcos recently asked the Philippine Heart Center to expand to the Clark Freeport in Angeles

City, he said.

The House also approved on final reading a bill increasing the cash gift for Filipino centenarians who reach 101 years old from P100,000

to P1 million in a bid to honor and support them.

With an overwhelming 257 votes, the chamber approved HB 7535, which seeks to grant P1 million to Filipinos who reach 101 years old or

centenarians, whether living here or abroad, and P25,000 to Filipinos who reach the age of 80 and 85 (octogenarians), and 90 and 95

(nonagenarians). All of them will also receive a letter of felicitation from the President of the Philippines.

“With this legislation, the House of Representatives would like to honor our countrymen for their years of service to the country and for

their discipline in ensuring that they live a long, healthy and fruitful life,” Romualdez said.

HB 7535 mandates the National Commission of Senior Citizens to implement the measure once passed into law.

It also seeks to amend Republic Act 10868 or the Centenarians Act of 2016 which entitles all Filipinos who reach 100 years old and above

with a cash gift worth P100,000.

Two in every 100,000 Filipinos are centenarians as of 2020, and majority of them are women, according to a report by Business Mirror

citing data from a UK-based care home marketplace.

Similarly, the Romualdez leadership passed HB 7561 or the “Line Workers Insurance and Benefits Act” which seeks to provide mandatory

insurance coverage and other employment benefits to all electrical line workers in the country who face an enormous amount of risk in

their line of work. The House approved the bill by an overwhelming 259 votes.

The bill mandates employers – be it in the private or public sector – to provide line workers with additional benefits such as retirement

pay. “The power industry is what energizes our economy, lights up our homes and allows us to live in comfort. And behind the energy sector

are the line workers who risk their lives and limbs just to preserve and maintain our way of life,” said Romualdez.

“It is only right to afford them the benefits and protection due to them and their families for the perils they face in their line of

work. This measure is in recognition of their immense contribution to our society and to nation-building,” he added.

Under HB 7561, line workers shall refer to persons “including crew, drivers, and helpers, who are directly responsible for the

construction, installation, maintenance, reconstruction, and repair of overhead transmission and distribution electrical systems, including

underground cables, electrical substations, and other related electrical equipment and facilities.”

They also include line workers employed in private distribution utilities (PDUs), electric cooperatives (ECs), and transmission or

grid operators, who shall be entitled to life, accident or disability insurance benefits.

In the case of electric cooperatives, the insurance coverage requirement shall be calibrated by the following classification:

P200,000 for small cooperatives, P400,000 for medium-sized, P600,000 for large, P800,000 for extra large and P1 million for mega large.

“For the transmission or grid operator, the minimum insurance coverage shall be P2 million. For Private Distribution Utilities, the minimum

insurance coverage shall be P1.5 million,” the measure read.

“The coverage shall be effective upon the commencement of their employment until their separation from the company, either by

resignation, termination, or retirement. The insurance premium payments shall be shouldered entirely by the employer,” HB 7561 said.

The bill also mandates additional benefits for line workers, including retirement benefits, disability benefits, mortuary assistance and

reimbursement of medical expenses in case of death, accident, sickness, or disability injury sustained by the line worker in the

line of duty.

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