House begins plenary debates on proposed economic charter changes

Robie de Guzman   •   February 22, 2021   •   279

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Monday started its plenary deliberations on proposals seeking to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., the chairperson of House committee on constitutional amendments, sponsored Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 in the plenary, signifying the start of the entire chamber’s discussion on the proposed changes in the economic provisions of the country’s charter.

In his sponsorship speech, Garbin stressed that passing the resolution will give the government the freedom to adopt measures that will pave the way for economic development.

“It is wise for Congress to amend the Constitution by adding the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in order to give the government enough flexibility to consider different circumstances prevailing at different stages our road to economic development before formulating policies that should be time-bound,” he said.

Garbin emphasized that economic conditions “are never static, so must the fundamental law be freed from the constraint of rigidity. While it is reduced to writing, it should not be devoid of the element of flexibility.”

The House panel earlier approved RBH No. 2 which aims to amend existing economic provisions in the Philippine charter to open up the country to foreign investors in a bid to help the pandemic-battered economy to recover.

Garbin noted observations that the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions “have proven to be a bane, rather than a boon for the country, for they have restricted or discouraged the flow of foreign direct investments.”

“While these provisions may be very well-meaning and appear to favor the interests of Filipinos, over the long haul, the country and the common good of all Filipinos suffer,” he added.

The lawmaker also said that the Philippines should not be afraid to compete in today’s global economy as he stressed on the need to amend or eliminate overly protective provisions to attract more foreign investments.

The legislator was referring to provisions of the Constitution that limit foreign ownership in business enterprises operating in the country, including public utilities.

While the solon reminded his fellow lawmakers that all Filipinos are duty-bound to respect and obey the Constitution, “the obligation to respect, obey and to dutifully protect does not equate to permanence.”

“It does not mean that the tenets therein would no longer be changed if change is necessary and if change is desired by the people.”

Garbin earlier said that the House plans to approve the resolution on third and final reading before Congress goes on recess on March 27.

House Speaker Velasco renews push for Bayanihan Law 3 amid COVID-19 surge

Robie de Guzman   •   March 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has renewed his call for the passage of Bayanihan to Arise as One Act, also known as Bayanihan 3, that will provide direct aid to Filipinos struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Velasco revived his proposal as more areas are placed under localized lockdowns and some businesses were again forced to shut down due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

“There are a lot of Filipinos who are suffering financially and are in dire need of help now. A third economic stimulus package will provide a much-needed lifeline to individuals, families, and businesses severely affected by the pandemic,” Velasco said in a statement.

The lawmaker was referring to his own version of the Bayanihan 3 bill that proposes a P420-billion fund to stimulate the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

House Bill 8628 or the proposed Bayanihan 3 seeks to allocate the following funds:

  • P108 billion for additional social amelioration to impacted households
  • P100 billion for capacity-building for impacted sectors
  • P52 billion for wage subsidies
  • P70 billion for capacity-building for agricultural producers
  • P30 billion for internet allowances to students and teachers
  • P30 billion for assistance to displaced workers
  • P25 billion for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines
  • P5 billion for the rehabilitation of areas impacted by recent floods and typhoons

Velasco filed the measure in February after the passage of the bill extending the validity of Bayanihan 2, and upon seeing further need to allocate additional funds to help the nation cope with the pandemic.

To date, 224 members from the supermajority, minority, and independent blocs in the House of Representatives have signed either as principal authors or co-authors of the measure.

Lawmakers said reports that the Philippine economy contracted 9.5 percent in 2020—the worst performance in the country’s post-war history—underscore the importance and urgency of passing Bayanihan 3.

The country’s economic managers had reportedly said they were not sure if the third stimulus package would still be necessary if quarantine restrictions were eased further and the economy moves faster.

However, Velasco said that during a recent virtual meeting, he got an assurance from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III that efforts are being made to identify funding sources for the Bayanihan 3.

“It’s a matter of finding revenues to be able to fund those programs. Secretary Dominguez did not actually shoot down Bayanihan 3,” Velasco said.

“Definitely, he (Dominguez) really wants to help the Filipino people. Ang sinabi lang niya e give him time to look for the funding,” he added.

The measure also seeks to provide each household member P1,000 regardless of their economic status. On top of this, a P1,000 allowance will be provided to each student and teacher and P8,000 for every displaced worker.

House OKs bill on housing rental subsidy for informal settlers

Robie de Guzman   •   March 25, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Thursday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking the creation of a housing rental subsidy program for informal settler families (ISF).

Voting 189-6-0, the lower house passed House Bill 8736 which seeks to promote a just, equitable, and inclusive urban development through programs providing adequate social services, broader housing options, livelihood, employment, as well as an improved quality of life for Filipinos.

The measure proposes to enable ISFs to access the formal housing market and facilitate the temporary relocation of families who were displaced due to natural and man-made disasters.

The bill stipulates that eligible ISFs in Metro Manila would receive a flat rental subsidy rate of P3,500.

Meanwhile, the rates for those living in other regions would be determined by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), taking into consideration the prevailing minimum wage and rental rates per region, but not exceeding P3,500.

The bill mandates that the rental subsidy shall not exceed the actual rent, provided that such subsidy may be reviewed or revised by the DHSUD and NEDA not more than once every two years to conform to prevailing economic conditions.

The rental subsidy shall be granted to eligible beneficiaries until the date of completion of or upon their actual transfer to the permanent housing project intended for them.

Program applicants shall be required to vacate the informal settlement area they are currently occupying and relocate to a safer area in order to receive the rental subsidy.

Beneficiaries shall be prohibited from moving back to the area where they were originally living unless permitted by proper government authorities and obliges them to pay that portion of the rent in excess of the subsidy.

 

Velasco places Lower House on 4-day lockdown

Marje Pelayo   •   March 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Allan Velasco has placed the entire House of Representatives on a four-day lockdown beginning Thursday (March 18) until Sunday (March 21) in response to the surge of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila.

Velasco issued the order Wednesday night (March 17), as he instructed House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza to ensure the strict implementation of the lockdown within the House premises in Batasan Complex for the protection of its members and employees.

“We have decided to place the entire Batasan Complex on a temporary lockdown from March 18 to 21 as a precautionary measure to protect the health and safety of House members and employees in view of the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila,” Velasco said.

The House leader also reiterated his appeal to the public to remain vigilant and continue all public health precautions against COVID-19 which has infected more than 600, 000 Filipinos from which 12, 866 already died as of March 17 toll.

“Now, more than ever, it is important to continue to maintain proper physical distancing, and practice good hygiene, as well as wear face mask and face shield,” Velasco said.

“These are small steps that will surely help us in a big way to protect ourselves and our loved ones from contracting the virus as we continue the battle against this deadly disease. So please don’t let your guard down,” he added.

In his announcement Wednesday night, Velasco enjoined lawmakers and employees to stay at home during the four-day lockdown and proceed with the usual virtual live streaming of scheduled meetings and hearings “not just to protect ourselves, but also to help arrest the spread of the virus.”

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