House sets hearing on impact of COVID-19 on PH tourism

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 12, 2020   •   997

The House of Representatives will have a joint hearing on the impact of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 on Philippine tourism and travel industry.

The House Committee on Economic Affairs and the House Committee on Tourism will have a joint hearing on Wednesday (February 12) to get the views and perspectives of government officials and tourism stakeholders from the private sector on the issue.

According to Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa) President Cesar Cruz about 50 percent of reservations in Boracay, Cebu and Palawan have been canceled as a result of the imposition of travel ban to and from China.

Philtoa estimates that the tourism industry has lost at least P10 billion so far.

Meanwhile, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) had a preliminary estimate that the economy might lose up to 0.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or about P133 billion if the virus continues to spread.

House Speaker Alan Cayetano earlier expressed the need to ensure that tourism growth will not be derailed as a result of the travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 threat.—AAC

House approves ‘Bating Filipino’ bill on final reading

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—With 212-1-1 votes, the House of Representatives approved the ‘Bating Filipino’ bill on third and final reading.

House Bill 8149 aims to institutionalize a new way of greeting by laying the palm of the right hand over the center of the chest while bowing.

Marikina 1st District Rep. Bayani Fernando, the author of the said bill, said the traditional way of handshake increases the risk of transmitting diseases.

“The medical profession has established that the traditional, well meaning and innocent gesture of handshake transmits communicable diseases and is a risk to one’s health,” he said.

Fernando said the bill can be a preventive measure in getting infected by the COVID-19 virus.

‘Bitter Talaga Sila’: Cayetano slammed for riding on BTS popularity for clout

Marje Pelayo   •   January 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Seven lawmakers who previously held key positions in the House of Representatives (HOR) coined the slogans “Back to Service” and “Bayanihan, Tapang at Serbisyo” as their newest advocacy — these also coincidentally form the acronym “BTS”.

BTS is more popularly known as the acronym for Bangtan Boys, a South Korean pop group that is considered the biggest boy band in the world right now.

Meanwhile, the newly formed BTS political bloc in Congress — spearheaded by former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano — claims that the Lower House is not in its proper order of business nowadays.

The group wants to bring focus on more pressing issues such as economic recovery, COVID-19 response and prompt delivery of government services.

“Kung inuna niya ang hearing sa vaccination at sa PhilHealth, wala tayong problema. Inuna ang Cha-Cha,” Cayetano said of his successor House Speaker Allan Velasco.

READ: Cayetano steps down as House Speaker

Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez echoed the same sentiments.

“Kasi very important yung problema ng pandemic and that’s the reason why wala kaming sinasayang na oras. Pero ngayon isang buwan kaming bakasyon at magsisimula ang Kongreso sa Lunes wala kang narinig na hearing,” he said. 

All seven of them said they are part of a much larger group of colleagues in Congress who support their initiative.

“We are a bigger group. We have many sympathisers, supporters that are currently part of the leadership of the House. Marami kaming kasama na committee chairmen,” said Anak Kalusugan Partylist Mike Defensor.

They believe the HOR has lost its glory and they want to reinstate it through this advocacy.

“We want to bring back the House of Representative being the house of the people rather than the house of politics,” noted Camarines Sur Representative L-Ray Villafuerte.

“Pinatibay namin iyong grupo namin dahil iisa ang nararamdaman namin. Kailangang maramdaman ng mga tao na ang House of Representatives ay kasama nila sa anumang nararamdaman nila,” added Batangas Representative Raneo Abu.

On the other hand, Senior Deputy Speaker Doy Leachon defended Velasco’s push for charter change as he believes it can solve and improve the current state of the country’s economy.

“Cha-Cha is sincere to deal only with economic provisions and supported by party leaders because this is the most opportune and right time to address the high unemployment rate and closure of business as the constitutional amendments seek to address infusion of massive investment opportunities,” he said.

Leachon in a statement called Cayetano’s group “ungrateful” and “selfish”.

He said Cayetano should have been thankful that Velasco did not touch the “bloated budget” that the former inserted and crafted into the 2021 national budget.

“Moreover, Speaker Velasco, despite their demeaning personality attacks on him, didn’t even raise a finger for 15 months and just waited for the right time to assume as the head of Congress based on the term-sharing agreement. Yun ang tularan nila- maginoo,” Leachon said.

“Their BTS launch is insignificant as to derail the Velasco’s legislative agenda because the current leadership under Speaker Velasco has earned the respect of the members of the supermajority  because they lucidly see a decent man, not vindictive, working leader who has also a gentle heart to feel the needs of the House members. Hindi barkadahan lang,” he added.

Leachon advised the group not to ride on the popularity of the K-pop group BTS because their acronym might end up standing for: ‘Bitter Talaga Sila.’ MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Velasco backs Duterte order to suspend PhilHealth rate hike

Robie de Guzman   •   January 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to suspend the increase in the premium contributions of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) scheduled for this year.

“We laud President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for suspending the increase in PhilHealth premium contributions amid the COVID-19 crisis,” Velasco said in a press statement.


“The President has once again proved his sincere and genuine regard for the welfare of the Filipino people, especially in this time of pandemic,” he added.

Duterte on Monday night said the PhilHealth premium hike should be deferred amid the global health crisis.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go earlier said the president expressed willingness to sign a measure that will hold off the contribution hike, and approve additional funds for PhilHealth.

Under the Universal Health Care Law, the state insurer’s  monthly rates will increase to 3.5% in January 2021 from 3% last year.

Velasco said the House of Representatives is ready to review the Universal Health Care Law and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, particularly the provisions on incremental premium rate hike for direct PhilHealth contributors.

“We urge the PhilHealth and the Department of Health to work closely with the legislature to ensure that our citizens and hardworking Filipinos will not further be exposed to this unnecessary burden while still grappling with the pandemic,” he said.

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