HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez on Sunday said he anticipates that most major concerns needed in the sustained campaign against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic are included in the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022.
Romualdez, chairman of the House Committee on Rules, said the House leadership under Speaker Lord Allan Velasco intends to pass the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) before the October deadline of the filing of certificates of candidacies (COCs) for next year’s presidential polls.
“With the expiration of Bayanihan 2, I am anticipating that most of the concerns in our defeat COVID 2019 campaign will be included in the 2022 national budget that we are about to receive after the final SONA (State of the Nation Address) of President Duterte,” Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), said.
“We commit to pass the 2022 national budget before the deadline of the filing of COCs. We will take advantage of the technology, in fact the Zoom has allowed us to have an engagement that is actually much more than what has been afforded by the actual presence of each and every member of the House,” Romualdez said, adding that the House of Representatives has been pushing economic reforms and effective pandemic response measures such as the passage of the P401-billion Bayanihan to Arise as One Act or Bayanihan 3 that are crucial to the economic recovery program of the Duterte administration.
Acting on explicit instructions from Velasco, Romualdez said they will prioritize the approval of five bills earlier identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).
These include the proposed Philippine Virology Institute Act, Center for Disease Control Act, Amendments to the Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016, Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act, and National Housing Development Act.
Romualdez said other anti-COVID measures pending in various committees that the House of Representatives will pursue its approval are the Bisekleta para sa Kinabukasan Act, Online Registration of Voters, Accelerating Public Sector Investments in Local Infrastructure or local Build, Build, Build Program, amendments to the Government Procurement Act, among other measures.
“The House leadership has shown resiliency amidst adversity. The institution has worked efficiently to ensure the timely passage of the 2021 national budget and will work on the swift approval of 2022 national budget this year,” Romualdez said, a lawyer from the University of the Philippines (UP) and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) or the oldest and most respectable association of legal luminaries in the country.
He said the House of Representatives is expected to approve on third and final reading the following measures when 18th Congress opens its Third Regular Session starting this Monday:
House Bill (HB) No. 9459 An Act Increasing the Social Pension of Indigent Senior Citizens and Appropriating Funds Therefor, amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 7432 Entitled ‘An Act To Maximize The Contribution Of Senior Citizens To Nation Building, Grant Benefits and Special Privileges And For Other Purposes,’ as amended;
HB 9147 or An Act Regulating the Production, Importation, Sale, Distribution, Provision, Use, Recovery, Collection, Recycling, and Disposal of Single-Use Plastic Products;
And HB 9560 or An Act Providing for the Modernization of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Capabilities, Establishing for this Purpose the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and Appropriating Funds Therefor.
Romualdez recalled that Congress passed Bayanihan 1 and 2, Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law, Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) law, An Act Establishing A Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program for Deserving Students, and a law that expedited the procurement and administration process of government vaccination program against COVID-19.
He said the House of Representatives already sent to the Senate the proposed amendments to the Public Service Act, Foreign Investments Act, Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE), Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (PIFITA), and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, which is now under the bicameral conference committee to open up the country’s economy.
According to him, the House of Representatives also passed on third and final reading Resolution of Both Houses Number 2 (RBH 2) to open its doors to foreign investments by amending the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution and a bill to tax persons engaged in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO).
The House Majority Leader also said that the House of Representatives also approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to create a Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) to support the country’s health system during public health emergencies.
“These laws and bills are meant to address the pandemic. The health of the people and economy are very important component of our legislative agenda this 18th Congress,” Romualdez said.