Cayetano steps down as House Speaker

Robie de Guzman   •   October 13, 2020   •   160

MANILA, Philippines ­– Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano has tendered his irrevocable resignation as speaker of the House of Representatives following the election of Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.

As House lawmakers ratified Velasco’s election to the top post, Cayetano said he is stepping down from the post to avoid any more division and squabble among legislators.

“Verbally, I am tendering my irrevocable resignation as the speaker of the House of the Republic of the Philippines,” Cayetano said on Facebook live.

“At 3 p.m., elect your new speaker and pass the budget… Walang maneuvers at political tactics na mangyayari diyan,” he added.

Cayetano’s move follows President Rodrigo Duterte’s reminder to lawmakers to resolve the speakership issue, and to pass the 2021 national budget on time.

Velasco’s assumption of the chamber’s top post ended weeks of leadership tug-of-war with Cayetano, and enforced the term-sharing agreement between the two rivals that was brokered by the president in 2019.

Under the term-sharing deal, Cayetano would serve as House Speaker for the first 15 months or until October 2020 while Velasco will take over the position for the remaining 21 months of the term.

Cayetano claimed he decided to give way to Velasco to ensure the passage of the P4.5-trillion General Appropriations Bill.

He said that based on his meetings with Duterte, he understood that he was going to turn over the top post once the budget bill has been approved.

“So Mr. President if I made a mistake, mali ang reading ko, misunderstood ko na gusto mong ituloy at tapusin ko ang budget, ako’y humihingi ng paumanhin. Hindi ko intensyon, never na hindi ka sundin,” he said.

Cayetano also urged Velasco to keep his word to retain the appointed House deputy speakers and committee chairpersons. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

House approves bill protecting consumers from fraudulent Internet transactions

Marje Pelayo   •   November 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives (HOR) on Monday (November 23) approved on third and final reading House Bill 7805 or the proposed ‘Internet Transactions Act’.

The bill seeks to regulate commercial transactions in the Internet and protect Filipino consumers from fraud and abuses especially with the increase in online transactions due to prevailing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) global pandemic.

The bill applies to the following activities: 

  • internet retail of consumer goods and services; 
  • online travel services; 
  • online media providers; 
  • ride hailing services; and 
  • digital financial services.

The bill also proposes the creation of an e-Commerce Code of conduct which guarantees equal application of rights of consumers and merchants with all “honesty, integrity and fairness at all times.”

Accurate information about the goods and services being offered should be assured and should conform to the Philippine regulatory standards.

The bill also proposes the creation of an electronic commerce (eCommerce) Bureau that will be tasked to implement the provisions of the proposed law and will operate under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Its tasks include  implementation, monitoring and ensuring compliance to the Internet Transactions Act, among other duties and responsibilities.

As for ride hailing partners, the bill mandates riders or delivery personnel to treat customers fairly and honestly the same way that consumers are warned not to “shame, demean, embarrass or humiliate” them.

House probe on Ulysses’ floods to focus on finding solutions – Velasco

Robie de Guzman   •   November 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Monday said he wants the panel investigation on the severe flooding that submerged parts of Cagayan and Isabela areas to focus more on coming up with long-term solutions to prevent deaths and economic costs in future disasters.

Velasco issued the statement as the House Committee on Agriculture and Food sets to conduct its probe on Tuesday.

Velasco said the purpose of the probe is to establish facts that could lead to corrective actions, and not to find fault on concerned individuals and agencies.

“We hope to hear everyone’s side and get a clearer picture of the events that transpired when Typhoon Ulysses struck and caused widespread flooding in Luzon,” Velasco said.

“The aim here is to come up with solutions and legislation, if needed, to prevent the unnecessary loss of lives and properties during typhoons,” he added.

Velasco said the congressional hearing will also focus on how to better address proper protocols and preparedness even before a natural disaster strikes.

“There will be more typhoons that will come our way, and we have to become better at preparations and in handling situations that call for sound judgment to prevent deaths and loss of properties from happening,” he said.

The panel has invited officials of the National Irrigation Administration and the local governments of Cagayan and Isabela for the hearing on Tuesday.

The inquiry was called by Velasco, together with Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano, through House Resolution No. 1348 into the cause of massive flooding that submerged the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela.

The country was hit by a series of typhoons – Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses – from late October to early November this year.

Ulysses caused heavy damages to infrastructure and agriculture and claimed 73 lives. The typhoon also affected thousands of families in parts of Luzon, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

 The entire Luzon has been placed under a state of calamity following the onslaught of recent typhoons.

House eyes P5-B increase in 2021 calamity fund

Robie de Guzman   •   November 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is pushing to hike the calamity fund for 2021 by at least P5 billion to aid in the reconstruction of areas devastated by recent strong typhoons.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the lower chamber will propose the increase during the bicameral conference on the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for next year.

The two chambers of Congress will convene the conference after the Senate approves its own version of the budget, he said.

Velasco stressed that there is a need to increase the calamity fund since the House passed the 2021 spending bill before typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses wreaked havoc in many parts of the country.

“Given the tremendous damage caused by these successive strong typhoons, it is imperative that we augment the calamity fund in next year’s spending plan. We have to help our people rebuild their lives and their communities,” he said in a statement.

He said that based on the reports of concerned government agencies, the total damage caused by typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses to infrastructure and agriculture is now at P35 billion.

Under the budget submitted by President Rodrigo Duterte to Congress in August, the calamity fund amounts to P20 billion, up by P4 billion from this year’s P16 billion.

But of the P20 billion, P5 billion will go to the funds for Marawi reconstruction, while P6.25 billion would be for the quick response funds of six agencies.

Of the P6.25 billion, P2 billion will go to the Department of Education, P1.25 billion to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, P1 billion to the Department of Agriculture, P1 billion to the Department of Public Works and Highways, P500 million to the Department of Health, and P500 million to the Department of National Defense-Office of Civil Defense.

“That’s a total of P11.25 billion that is specifically appropriated, leaving a balance of P8.75 billion President Duterte could use to help victims of calamities and other disasters. That balance is not even enough to rebuild Bicol, which was hard hit by Typhoon Rolly,” Velasco said.

“Alternatively, we can allocate the additional money in the budgets of the agencies involved in reconstruction and helping typhoon victims,” Velasco said.

He added that there are enough appropriations in the proposed budget from which the needed funds could be taken.

The entire Luzon has been placed under a state of calamity due to the impact of the spate of typhoons that hit the country in the previous years.

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