House to return from recess with full plate - Velasco
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the House of Representatives will be faced with a full plate of must-pass legislation when it resumes session on Monday, with Bayanihan 3 and other pandemic-related measures topping the agenda.
The House chief said the legislative chamber will make the most out of the remaining three weeks of the second regular session of the 18th Congress to pass a third round of COVID-19 relief package and other related bills.
“We need to make sure that we have economic stimulus laws to help our country bounce back better from this pandemic,” Velasco said.
“The House is ready to sit down with the Senate to make sure that these measures become laws before we adjourn,” he added.
The 18th Congress will adjourn its second regular session on June 5. It is scheduled to begin its third and final regular session on July 26 during which President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will deliver his final State of the Nation Address.
Velasco said the House is committed to ensure timely enactment of “what’s left of the priority measures under the Duterte Administration.”
“Most of these priority measures have already been approved on third reading by the House,” Velasco pointed out. “Maybe for the next three weeks, we will await Senate action on the bills certified urgent by the President.”
He said these measures include Senate Bill (SB) 2094 which seeks to amend the Public Service Act; SB 1156 or the amendments to the Foreign Investments Act of 1991; and SB 1840 which aims to amend the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000 by lowering the required paid-up capital for foreign retail enterprises.
Velasco also expressed hope the Senate will fast-track its deliberation on the proposed Medical Reserve Corps Act, which the House approved on final reading last March.
“COVID-19 has shown that we really need to have a Medical Reserve Corps, which we can easily mobilize during a public health crisis,” Velasco said.
Velasco said he had asked the House Committee on Health to expedite the approval of the bill creating the Philippine Virology Institute and the medical stockpiling bills as part of the government’s pandemic response.
It can be recalled that even during the congressional break, the House has conducted numerous committee hearings on bills and issues that matter to the public during this pandemic.
One of these is the substitute bill to several Bayanihan 3 measures, including House Bill 8628 or the proposed “Bayanihan to Arise As One Act,” which Speaker Velasco and Marikina City 2nd District Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo had filed.
The substitute bill only needs the approval of the House Committee on Appropriations before it can be reported to the plenary for approval on second and third readings.
The House Committees on Economic Affairs, on Social Services and on Ways and Means have approved a P405.6-billion Bayanihan 3, which includes two rounds of cash aid worth P2,000 to be given to every Filipino regardless of social status.
During recess, the House also held inquiries in aid of legislation on the efficient rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program, on the Department of Health and Food and Drug Administration circulars that allegedly hamper delivery of health services to the public, and on the alarming rise on the prices of pork and other basic commodities.
Once session resumes, Velasco said the chamber will approve in plenary the House resolutions concurring with President Duterte’s proclamations granting amnesty to Muslim and communist rebels who agreed to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.
The House Committees on Justice and on National Defense and Security had earlier approved four resolutions concurring with presidential proclamations granting amnesty to members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, Rebolusyunaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade, and Communist Terrorist Group.
“The amnesty program is a huge step toward achieving just and lasting peace in the country and giving former rebels a path back into civilian life,” Velasco said.
Velasco said the House will also continue the plenary deliberations on the Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, which seeks to give the next Congress the flexibility to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
“We are looking at lifting the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution as an intervention to allow substantially more foreign investments for the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19,” Velasco said.
The House chief said the changes to the 34-year-old Charter shall be introduced during the 19th Congress once the people approved of the proposed economic amendment during a plebiscite possibly coinciding with the May 2022 polls.
Velasco maintained that the proposed changes are “purely economic,” and “no political amendments will be entertained.” DMS