House passes bills responsive to needs of Pinoys amid COVID
DESPITE the limitations and challenges brought by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, the House of Representatives (HRep)—under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez —has delivered on its commitment to pass pieces of legislation that are responsive to the needs of Filipinos in these trying times.
In its Legislative Performance Report titled “Paving the Nation’s Path to Recovery,” the chamber said it has been “consistent in pursuing a legislative agenda anchored on saving lives, sustaining economic growth, and spearheading a public policy that is responsive and effective to the health crisis.”
The House said its priorities are two-fold: to help all Filipinos impacted by the pandemic, and to revive and rebuild the country’s economy. “With these priorities in mind, the HRep has not let the prevailing situation distract itself from the work that has to be done. The HRep has performed commendably in spite of the current limitations and challenges,” the report said.
“On these two fronts, the HRep worked tirelessly to pass key legislative measures, mandating a whole-of-government approach to fight the pandemic,” the report added. Foremost of these measures are the two Bayanihan laws—Republic Acts 11469 and 11494—which provided P250 billion in emergency subsidies to affected families and workers and a P165-billion economic rescue package, respectively.
The report stated that on its second regular session, the House delivered measures that not only address pandemic-related concerns, but also enabled structural reforms that will revive the economy and make it more resilient.
“These reforms ensure that opportunities and benefits of economic growth are more equitably shared. Moreover, these measures illustrate that we do not sacrifice our environment for economic growth,” the report said.
For the second regular session, the House approved 501 bills on third reading, 131 resolutions and reached a total of 803 approved measures, 72 of which were enacted into laws.
It also passed 20 out of 30 measures in the Common Legislative Agenda of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council or LEDAC, consisting mostly of the legislative priorities of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Five out of these 20 measures were enacted into law, while the rest were transmitted to the Senate for its corresponding action.
Aside from the legislative priorities in the common legislative agenda of the LEDAC, the House enacted key measures meant to directly address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To make funds available for pandemic response initiatives and provide safeguards to ensure its proper utilization, the House ensured the timely passage of the 2021 General Appropriations Act. The chamber also pushed for the extension of the availability of funds appropriated through Bayanihan 2 until June 30, 2021, and the P4.1-trillion 2020 General Appropriations Act until December 31, 2021.
Since financing the stimulus measures was a challenge, the House passed two significant economic measures designed to complement the national budget and help absorb the large financial shock: the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law (RA 11534) and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) law (RA 11523).
CREATE is the largest stimulus package for enterprises in the country’s history as it provides them with hefty corporate income tax cuts. According to the Department of Finance, CREATE is expected to provide more than P1 trillion worth of tax relief over the next 10 years.
FIST, on the other hand, allows banks to free up much-needed liquidity for lending to the productive sectors of the economy, a crucial step to its recovery. This reform is critical in keeping local banks strong and ready to finance productive economic activity.
The House likewise passed a primordial measure geared toward economic recovery and expansion—Resolution of Both Houses No. 2. This measure pushes for amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution to offer flexibility in foreign ownership rules of certain sectors and industries that would facilitate foreign direct investments, which could offer employment and choices to Filipinos.
In its report, the House said it also continued to address the health and safety needs of Filipinos amid the pandemic.
“Despite supply challenges worldwide, the HRep fully supported the complete roll-out of our vaccination program. With the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 (RA 11525) in place, the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and the establishment of a P500-million indemnity fund was expedited,” the report said.
“To ensure that the country has a cadre of frontliners to answer to the medical concerns of our people not only during the pandemic but in normal times, the HRep established the Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program for deserving students through the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act (RA 11509),” it added.
With strong political will, the House cleared the hurdle of passing difficult but landmark measures, such as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act (RA 11524) and Amendments to the 2001 Anti-Money Laundering Act or AMLA (RA 11521).
RA 11524 is the most practicable source of fund that could address the economic difficulties of coconut farmers especially during this time of pandemic. It provides a mechanism to protect the rights, welfare and interest of small coconut farmers and farm workers.
With the amendments to AMLA, the Philippines institutionalized a stronger legal framework to address gaps in money laundering and counter-terrorism financing.
As the country starts to reopen the economy, the House vowed to consider “the remaining measures that will secure our people’s health and safety and create spaces for opportunities that will hasten our economic recovery.”
“These measures, consistent with this Administration’s ‘tapang’ and ‘malasakit’ governance, will cement the legacy of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” the House said.