Zubiri hails ‘accomplishment-filled’ session
THE Senate of the Philippines has adjourned sine die and formally closed the First Regular Session of the 19th Congress, which passed essential pieces of legislation, keeping its promise of being a “Senate of national reconstruction.”
“Today, we take a short break from a productive year during which we responded to the needs of the people and the challenges of the times with hard work and high purpose,” Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri said in his closing speech before the Senate takes a short legislative break.
“A highlight among our accomplishments is our approval of eight priority measures of the administration,” he added.
The Senate chief led the Senate in each of the 77 regular plenary session days during the First Regular Session.
Since July last year, senators have spent hundreds of hours deliberating important topics and pressing national issues in sessions, committee hearings, inquiries, and technical working groups.
According to official Senate records, senators collectively filed more than 2,200 bills and 630 resolutions during the First Regular Session, all of which are in various stages of the legislative process.
The Senate rallied to pass 31 landmark bills, 22 of which await the signature of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. and adopted more than 70 resolutions during the First Regular Session.
“While this scoreboard shows the quantity of our input, it cannot even begin to describe the quality of each. True to our tradition, we do not agree to proposals without discussion nor embrace ideas without debate,” Zubiri said.
“All of the laws we forge here go through careful study. We do not deliberately make the process slower. What we do is improve them,” he said in Filipino.
One of the priority measures passed by the Upper Chamber is Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2020, establishing the “Maharlika Investment Fund,” a sovereign wealth fund projected to invest government reserves and other public and private capital to help revitalize and boost the Philippine economy.
Other measures for the creation of jobs and economic opportunities passed by the Senate are SBN 1594, or the “One Town, One Product (OTOP)” Philippines Act; SBN 2021, or the Shared Service Facilities Project for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises; and SBN 2035, or “Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act,” which aims to generate decent and permanent jobs, as well as to provide support to workers and businesses nationwide.
To help students and public educators and to emphasize the importance of equal access to education for all Filipinos, the Senate also passed vital measures, including SBN 1359, or the “No Permit, No Exam Act”; SBN 1864, the “Student Loan Payment Moratorium during Disasters and Emergencies Act”; and SBN 1604, otherwise known as the “ARAL Program Act.”
The chamber also unanimously passed SBN 1964, or the “Kabalikat sa Pagtuturo Act,” a measure that will incrementally increase all public-school teachers’ allowances from P5,000 to P7,500 for the school year 2023-2024 up to P10,000 per year in the next few school years.
The Senate also led the passage of several community health measures that seek to improve the health and well-being of Filipinos and ensure that each citizen will have access to public health services.
Some of these measures include SBN 1290, or the “Walkable and Bikeable Communities Act,” and SBN 2212, or the “Regional Specialty Centers Act.”
SBN 2212 is a pet measure of Zubiri, a fulfillment of his campaign promise. The bill seeks to provide “Specialty Centers” – a unit or department that offers specialized care addressing particular conditions and providing specific procedures – in regional hospitals under the supervision of the Department of Health (DOH).
Other measures which promote cultural development and social services also hurdled the Upper Chamber, some of which are SBN 1480, an Act Rationalizing the Disability Pension of Veterans; SBN 1850, or the “Condonation of the Agrarian Reform Debt”; SBN 2219, extending the period of availing of the Estate Tax Amnesty; SBN 1841, amending Republic Act (RA) No. 10066 or the “National Cultural Heritage Act”; and SBN 1410, declaring February 1st of every year as the National Day for Awareness of the Muslim garb Hijab and other traditional garments and attire.
The Senate is scheduled to resume its Second Regular Session in the last week of July.
“When we meet again in this hall, let it be with greater determination and a renewed commitment to perform our duties that the Republic and our people expect us to,” Zubiri concluded.