HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez on Monday gave a positive review on the final State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte that spelled out his major achievements in the last five years of his administration.
Romualdez, chairman of the House committee on rules, lauded the Duterte administration for working very hard to pass the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, the Universal Health Care Law, the Free Irrigation Act, among others important laws for the benefit of the Filipino people.
He said the approval of these measures as major legacies of his administration were only made possible under President Duterte’s leadership that were unthinkable for many generations in the past.
“The final SONA of President Rodrigo Duterte is but a capsule of what he has achieved in service to the Filipino people for the last five years. Clearly, his SONA was not enough to spell out all the relevant programs and projects that the Duterte administration has implemented to improve the living condition of our people,” said Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD).
“What stands out is the undeniable fact that President Duterte accomplished what were deemed as impossible missions in the past, free college education, healthcare coverage for all Filipinos, free
irrigation, an autonomous government for the Bangsamoro, lower crime rate in all parts of the country,” added Romualdez, a lawyer from the University of the Philippines (UP) and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), the oldest and most respectable association of legal luminaries in the country.
Romualdez said it is lamentable that these sterling accomplishments were relegated to the background to give way to more urgent issues that President Duterte need to address in his SONA.
“But the President made the right decision. Rather than delve lengthily on his achievements for the past five years, he chose to issue additional marching orders on how to keep our people safe from the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Romualdez said.
“We heard the President’s message loud and clear. Now is not the time for divisive politics. We have to work as a team— and act fast— to save precious human lives and to bounce back from the economic ravages brought by the global pandemic,” Romualdez added.
PRESIDENT DUTERTE HAS DONE A GREAT JOB
Cavite Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga, Jr., president of the National Unity Party (NUP), Ako Bisaya party-list Rep. Sonny Lagon and Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said all of the accomplishments of the Duterte administration have been warmly-embraced and deeply appreciated by the Filipino.
“The President has done a great job in the past five years, bringing meaningful change to the Filipino people through his no-nonsense policies particularly in the area of peace and order as seen in his war against illegal drugs,” said Barzaga, chairman of the House committee on natural resources.
“We were on the way to a better future when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and threw a monkey wrench to some of the administration’s economic achievements, something that other nations have also experienced. Despite this, we cannot discount the fact that the Duterte administration did all that it could to safeguard the public, cushioning them from impact of this health crisis through various measures,” Barzaga explained.
Lagon congratulated President Duterte for his renewed commitment to good governance and intensified campaign against corruption “We, here in the House of Representatives, are ready to face the challenges spelled out by our President in his SONA. As partners in nation building, we commit ourselves to the realization of the state’s concrete plans and the passage of the priority legislative measures provided by the President,” Lagon added.
Salceda said “I am glad that, as we recommended, President Duterte reiterated the historic legacies of his administration in socioeconomic development. I am honored to have authored practically every reform he sought in his last State of the Nation Address.”
“He is the President to have made college tuition in state colleges free. His administration institutionalized the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. His government doubled infrastructure spending, and launched more than 20,000 infrastructure projects with 6.5 million jobs scattered across the country. His government instituted universal health care – the foundation for equitable medical care for all Filipinos,” Salceda said.
“His comprehensive tax reform program, the most ambitious tax reform program in the country’s history since the codification of tax laws in 1997, is hailed across the globe as a model for public resource management and public investment. Indeed, average revenue-to-GDP rates under President Duterte, at 15.3% of GDP, are at their highest since the 1997 tax reform under Ramos. In fact, the Duterte tax reform, which I am honored to have authored and shepherded in Congress, is taught as a module in some of the world’s best universities,” according to Salceda.
“Prior to the pandemic, average growth rates under his presidency were higher than any other President since EDSA. Average inflation rates under President Duterte are lower than any other Presidency, even after the COVID-19 pandemic. Government debt interest rates are at the lowest in ten years. Prior to our fiscal expansion to support economic
recovery this 2020, our debt-to-GDP levels reached their lowest ever rates at 39.6% of GDP. Unemployment rates reached their lowest ever levels at 2.24% in 2019,” Salceda added.
VELASCO TELLS HOUSE COLLEAGUES: IT’S TIME FOR THAT ‘ONE LAST BIG PUSH’ FOR PRIORITY MEASURES
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco rallied his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass all the remaining priority bills in the 18th Congress, particularly legislative measures that would further help Filipinos navigate and recover from the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we enter the final year of our present term in Congress, it is time for that one last big push,” Velasco told House members in a speech delivered during the opening of the third and final session of the 18th Congress.
The House chief made the call ahead of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) to a joint session of Congress later in the afternoon.
Velasco said the House was on track to approve the remaining legislative priority measures, including the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Foreign Investments Act, and the Public Service Act.
“To assist in our economic recovery, we are pushing for the taxation of Philippine offshore gaming operators and E-sabong betting activities,” Velasco said, adding that the House would await and
closely monitor Senate action on these measures. According to Velasco, the House is continually learning from the pandemic and is carefully reviewing relevant policies on public health and safety.
“We are set to approve the Medical Stockpiling bill to allow the Department of Health to stockpile, conserve, and facilitate the supply and distribution of pharmaceuticals and vaccines for public health emergencies,” Velasco said.
Also in the House priorities, he said, are the bills establishing the Virology Institute of the Philippines and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
With pandemic lockdowns and other restrictions heightened the need for flexible and more efficient ways of doing business and administering taxes, Velasco said the House supports the Ease of Paying Taxes bill to institutionalize portability of transactions and the streamlining of compliance procedures.
“We also recognize the devastating impact of COVID-19 on our creative industries, and fully support efforts to organize and institutionalize the Philippine creative economy,” Velasco said.
Velasco said the House will tackle the substitute bill on the proposed Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP) pension law, which seeks to institute long-needed reforms in the pension system of MUP and to address its attendant fiscal burden and sustainability risks.
The House also deliberated on the proposed amendment to the National Internal Revenue Code in a bid to resolve the concerns of private educational institutions on a new Bureau of Internal Revenue policy that would hike its tax rate from 10 percent to 25 percent.
“Nais nating makatulong bumangon at hindi makabigat sa mga kasalukuyang pasanin ng mga pribadong paaralan at mga guro,” Velasco pointed out.
Velasco said the House expects the Department of Budget and Management and government economic managers to soon submit the National Expenditure Program for 2022, which will be the last budget of the Duterte administration.
“Kailangan natin itong busisiin, himayin, at buuin nang maayos upang makasagot sa lumalaking pangangailangan ng ating bayan ngayong panahon ng patuloy na pandemya,” he said.