MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is eyeing to hold marathon sessions for the immediate passage of the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.
In a statement, Romualdez said House members have agreed to work day and night from Monday to Friday to ensure that the 2020 General Appropriations Act will be approved by October this year.
“This will give the Senate ample time to scrutinize the budget approved by the House. Hopefully we can have a bicameral conference by early December, then approve the 2020 national budget before the year ends,” he said.
The House Committee on Appropriations, headed by Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab, has started on Thursday the deliberations on the 2020 budget bill with a briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the inter-agency panel that sets the overall economic targets, expenditure levels and budget of the government.
By September 12, Romualdez said the lower chamber would hold sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, past the regular schedule of Monday to Wednesday.
He added that the plenary session was also moved from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to give way to four budget hearings scheduled by the Committee on Appropriations.
“We will hold four budget hearings daily at the committee level almost simultaneously. The hearings are scheduled at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.,” Romualdez said.
“House members may have to shuttle between hearings in order to maximize their participation in the budget deliberations. I am thankful that all the House members agreed to this schedule, which is really a tall order,” he added.
The lawmaker said he had also approved the request of Ungab to allow the holding of committee hearings on the budget even after the plenary proceedings have started at 5 p.m.
“This means that the appropriations committee may hold budget hearings at the committee level simultaneous with the plenary debates on other pending bills and resolutions,” Romualdez said.
“This will ensure that plenary deliberations on other pending issues, such as the vital revenue measures, will push through even as we are working round the clock on the budget bill,” he added.
Under Section 71 of the House Rules, congressmen are deemed present in a House session if they are attending committee meetings authorized by the House committee on rules, which is currently chaired by Romualdez as Majority Leader.
Section 35 of the House Rules, on the other hand, provides that: “Only the committee on rules and such committees to which it has granted permission, may meet while the House is in plenary session, has adjourned, or is in recess.”
Romualdez said that under these rules, the committee on appropriations “may continue with their budget hearings while the House is in plenary session.
“We are invoking the powers of the Majority Leader, as Rules Chairman, to enable the House to tackle simultaneously all the vital measures included in the President’s legislative agenda,” he said.
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.
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is set to approve on Monday, February 22, a bill seeking to establish an indemnification fund and expedite the procurement of vaccines against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the lower chamber is expected to pass House Bill No. 8648 on second and third readings after the measure was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“As soon as we were apprised that the indemnification fund is a requirement of the vaccine manufacturers, we wasted no time in filing House Bill 8648, which would allow emergency procurement of vaccines and provide the required indemnification fund,” Velasco said in a statement.
House Bill 8648 proposes to provide exemptions to compliance by local government units with the procurement requirements under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act in the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines and other much-needed supplies during the pandemic.
The bill pushes for the vaccines to be exempted from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, and other fees, provided that the shots to be acquired by LGUs “shall only be used for their residents and constituents, and not for commercial distribution.”
The bill is now up for second reading after it was approved by the Committee on Appropriations and sponsored in plenary.
Aside from the vaccine indemnification bill, Velasco said the House is also prepared to pass the proposed Bayanihan to Arise as One Act (Bayanihan 3), which proposes a P420-billion fund for the implementation of much-needed COVID-19 response and recovery interventions.
The proposal also includes a P25-billion budget for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines.
The House speaker said the lower chamber has always been supportive of the national government’s efforts to fight COVID-19 noting the passage of the 2021 national budget, which includes a P72.5 billion allocation for vaccine procurement, as well as the Bayanihan 1 and 2.
“Rest assured that the House will continue to pass legislation that would help sustain the national government’s efforts in addressing the pandemic, so we can all return to normal at the soonest possible time,” he said.
MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Allan Velasco has filed a bill proposing a P420-billion fund to further help stimulate the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press release, Velasco, together with Marikina City 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo filed last Thursday (February 4) House bill 8628 or the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act, also known Bayanihan 3.
The proposed bill has so far gained support from 115 members of major political parties and power blocs comprising the supermajority in the lower chamber of Congress, and expressed their intent to co-author the said bill.
The House Speaker believes that while the two previous Bayanihan laws — the Bayanihan to Heal As One, and Bayanihan to Recover As one — have helped with the initial capacity of the government to respond to the impact of COVID-19 crisis, these were “not sufficient for the genuine economic recovery of the country”.
“Given that actual economic output in 2020 was far below what was assumed for budget purposes, and further losses may still be incurred as the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to prevail well into the current fiscal year, an additional economic stimulus package is needed to help the government meet its recovery targets for the year,” Velasco pointed out.
The proposed P420-B appropriation under Bayanihan 3 has been breakdown into the following:
• P52 billion for subsidies to small business for wages and other worker-related expenses;
• P100 billion for the capacity-building of businesses in critically impacted sectors;
• P108 billion for additional social amelioration to impacted households through programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development;
• P70 billion for the provision of assistance and capacity-building to farmers, livestock producers and fishermen;
• P30 billion for the implementation of unemployment assistance and cash-for-work programs under the Department of Labor and Employment;
• P30 billion for internet allowances to primary, secondary and tertiary students and teachers in public and private educational institutions;
• P5 billion to the Department of Public Works and Highways for the rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas, including the repair, reconstruction and/or construction of flood control works, roads, bridges, public buildings and other damaged public works, to be distributed proportionately among provinces and cities affected;
• P25 billion to the Department of Health for the procurement of COVID-19 medication and vaccines, and to finance logistics, information awareness campaigns, and other related operational expenses.
Velasco stressed that the government must take the lead to promote business and consumer confidence and social welfare. He further stated, “Increased, well-targeted spending is a vital step to achieving these goals”
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