House to focus on boosting PH defense, economic dev’t in remaining session

April 29, 2024 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 125 views

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Monday said the House of Representatives would prioritize the improvement of the country’s national defense and security and economic development in the remaining session of the 19th Congress.

He told his colleagues upon the resumption of the session of Congress that after recording a 100-percent performance in the approval of priority administration bills, “we must now direct our legislative focus on the most pressing needs that our countrymen face at the moment: strengthening national security and enhancing economic development.”

“We recognize that peace is the cornerstone of prosperity. Hence, we need to enact laws that fortify our national defense and enhance our international security posture. These initiatives are critical in maintaining sovereignty and stability, enabling our nation to pursue development goals without the shadow of external threat,” he said.

He said by strengthening peace and security, Congress can create an environment conducive to economic and development activities.

“These, in turn, contribute to further stabilizing our nation by reducing poverty, creating jobs, and improving living standards, which in turn diminishes the likelihood of social unrest. This is fundamental to sustainable development and is a cornerstone of our legislative agenda,” he said.

Speaker Romualdez highlighted in his remarks the results of the successful trilateral summit last April 11 among US President Joe Biden, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The Speaker and several House colleagues were part of President Marcos’ delegation and witnessed the summit.

“This meeting underscored our strategic role in regional politics and security. This event followed the historic address by His Excellency Fumio Kishida, prime minister of Japan, to the House of Representatives last November – an event that itself marked a milestone in our diplomatic engagements,” he said.

He congratulated President Marcos “for this monumental diplomatic victory, particularly in the context of the West Philippine Sea.”

“This historic meeting signifies a strong and united commitment of the three nations – the United States, Japan, and the Philippines – to uphold the principles of international law and ensure the freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific region which are vital in ensuring peace, stability and prosperity,” he said.

It also paved the way for enhanced cooperation in addressing regional challenges, particularly in promoting maritime security and safeguarding territorial integrity,” he said.

It likewise highlights the importance of respecting the sovereign rights of states within their exclusive economic zones consistent with international law, as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he said.

He informed his colleagues that coinciding with the trilateral summit, he and his House delegation engaged several US senators and congressmen on the importance of strengthening defense and economic cooperation between the Philippines and the United States.

“Nilinaw namin sa kanila ang pakay ng Pilipinas sa kanilang bansa. Hindi lamang pagtibayin ang security partnership ng Pilipinas at United States. Kailangan din nating palakasin ang economic partnership ng dalawang bansa para mapabuti ang kalagayan ng ating mga mamamayan,” Speaker Romualdez said.

“Through our persistent lobbying, it is worthy to mention that the Philippines was included as part of the beneficiaries of the $8.1-billion aid package approved by the United States Congress for its allies,” he said.

He said his group also proposed the expansion of joint US-PH military exercises and appealed for increased US foreign military financing (FMF).

He welcomed the filing in the US Senate of the proposed Philippines Enhanced Resilience Act of 2024, sponsored by sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee.

The measure seeks $500 million annually in FMF for the Philippines for 2025 through 2030, or a total of $2.5 billion.

“We expressed our sincere appreciation to the members of United States Congress for the bipartisan support on this groundbreaking measure which is crucially beneficial for Filipinos amid escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea,” Speaker Romualdez said.

He said they also expressed their gratitude to Rep. Darrell Issa of California who introduced the amendment to the bill, encouraging the State Department to allocate $500 million in FMF to the Philippines.

“In the volatile, uncertain, and complex environment of today, we must opt for collaborative efforts to address our common problems more swiftly and effectively,” the House leader said.

“This philosophy of proactive engagement and cooperation is at the heart of our approach in the House of Representatives. It aligns with the foreign policy direction set by President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., that the Philippines is a friend to all, and enemy to none,” he said.