Bicam okays Bangsamoro Organic Law

Marje Pelayo   •   July 19, 2018   •   6367

PASAY CITY, Philippines – The 28-member of the bicameral conference committee approved on Wednesday night (July 18) the reconciled version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was renamed, Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

This was after the bicameral panel concluded its debates on the most contentious provisions of the House and Senate versions on the region’s territorial jurisdiction.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law seeks to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which would have a regional government, a parliament, and justice system as well as a greater fiscal autonomy that would allow an independent budget management. Up to P70B in block grant would be given to the Bangsamoro Region from the national government.

Awaiting a regional plebiscite, the proposed region would be composed of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

It also seeks to include six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays of North Cotabato in the Bangsamoro, only if the province and their municipalities vote for inclusion.

Meanwhile, chartered cities of Cotabato and Isabela would also be included, also pending a plebiscite.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri accepted the Bangsamoro bill on the part of the Senate followed by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas for the Lower House. After both legislators signaled the acceptance of the measure, celebrations erupted in the room.

“They can now also convince the extremist yung mga nagiisip na mga manggugulo doon. Sila na mismo ang MILF, MNLF ngayon ay partners ng gobyerno in convincing population not to join extremism,” said Zubiri.

“This may be not a perfect law, but this is good to start with,” exclaimed MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday (July 19) said President Rodrigo Duterte can sign the BOL “anytime” as soon as he receives the consolidated version.

President Duterte may also opt to sign the proposed measure into law hours before his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23. – Nel Maribojoc / Marje Pelayo

Bicam approves proposed 2021 national budget

Robie de Guzman   •   December 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The bicameral conference committee on Wednesday approved the final version of the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, which is seen to drive the country’s pandemic and calamity response and recovery efforts.

The spending bill includes a P72.5 billion allocation for the purchase of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines.

Of this allotment, P2.5 billion is allocated for the vaccines under the programmed funds of the Department of Health (DOH) while the P70 billion is placed under the unprogrammed appropriations, dependent on the availability of actual government funds.

Senator Sonny Angara, chairperson of Senate committee on finance and head of the upper chamber’s contingent in the bicameral conference, said that although much of the vaccines for budget was unprogrammed, the Department of Finance gave assurance it will be funded depending on the availability of government revenues.

“Ang akala kasi ng iba, ‘pag unprogrammed, hindi siya mapo-pondohan. It’s not true. But the probability of it being funded is large. We’re assured by the DOF na mapopondohan talaga ‘yun,” he said.

Aside from the allotment of P72.5 billion in the spending bill, Angara said the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) also provides P10 billion for COVID-19 vaccines.

The Bayanihan 2 is set to lapse on December 19 so lawmakers are moving to extend its validity until March or June 2021.

Both chambers of Congress are also planning to extend the validity of the 2020 General Appropriations Act until June or December 2021 for the implementation of programs and projects funded under the measure that was delayed due to the pandemic.

The budget bill also set aside funds for infrastructure projects for projects ravaged by recent typhoons.

The approved version of the budget also retained the P19-billion funding of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Lawmakers are eyeing to submit the 2021 budget bill to President Rodrigo Duterte for signing before December 25.

The bicam version of the budget bill has to be ratified first by both the Senate and the House before it can be submitted to the Office of President. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Bicam approves proposed add’l taxes on cigarettes, salty foods, alcohol, vapor products

Maris Federez   •   December 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines— The two chambers of Congress have agreed on the final version of the Sin Tax Law.

The Bicameral Conference Committee on Wednesday (Dec. 18) approved the bill that proposes an additional tax on cigarettes, salty foods, alcohol and vapor products.

The bill provides for the application of the additional tax on fermented products from Php 35 in 2020 to Php 43 by the year 2024, while distilled products will be imposed with P35 to 66 taxes, wines with added Php 50 tax, and heated tobacco with additional Php 25 in the coming year.

The bicam has also approved the provision that prevents selling to vape products to buyers who are 21 years old and below.

“Kung ikaw ay hindi pa 21, definitely hindi pwede, tatanungin ka pa, nagyoyosi ka ba, kapag hindi ka nagyoyosi hindi ka pwede,” said House Committee on Ways and Means chairman, Rep. Joey Salceda.

This measure seeks to collect Php 24.9-Million taxes, and such will be used in the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act.

“I think all the health advocates sana mas mataas pa as a revenue measure, I had also hope na mas mataas,” Senate Committee on Ways and Means chair Pia Cayetano added.

The approved bill also provided for a clearer rule on VAT exemptions on medicines for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.

And by 2023, medicines for mental health, cancer, and tuberculosis will also be VAT-exempt. — (from the report of Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

Lacson exposes alleged last minute ‘pork insertions’ in the 2020 National Budget

Marje Pelayo   •   December 12, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Bicameral Conference Committee finally has approved the P4.1T proposed national budget for next year.

However, Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed some last-minute ‘pork insertions’ in the proposed budget, the reason why he skipped the signing of the bicameral conference report on Wednesday night (December 12).

Lacson said he was sent a USB drive that contained the source files and the list files.

Based on their assessment, the source file contains 1,253 budget items amounting to more than P83-B.

Another file includes projects of congressmen amounting to P16-B that was inserted in the Bicam report.

The Lower House has yet to explain the two files.

It is, therefore, not clear if the total insertion was P83-B or P16-B.

Based on Lacson’s initial list, the provinces that obtained the largest allocations include Albay, Cavite, Sorsogon, Batangas, Bulacan, Pangasinan, and Cebu.

These were apart from the 117 flood control projects amounting to more than P3-B that was more suspicious.

Lacson expects President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the said questionable line items in the national budget.

Senator Vicente Sotto III said he will clarify with Senator Lacson the details of his discovery and to assess whether or not to elevate the issue to the President.

“Ang mangyayari sa atin ngayon niyan, in order not to delay the budget, we will just inform the Executive department. That’s the assessment of the Senate,” Sotto concluded. – MNP (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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