Sotto sees 2021 National Budget ready before the year ends

Marje Pelayo   •   October 28, 2020   •   307

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III is confident that the 2021 National Budget will be ready for the signing of President Rodrigo Duterte before the end of the year.

Sotto thanked House Speaker Allan Velasco for submitting the proposed budget earlier than the expected of October 28.

This will give the Senate subcommittees time to complete their reports before they submit to the Senate Committee on Finance.

On November 10, Senator Sonny Angara is expected to sponsor the bill to the plenary.

Senators will then bring the budget bill under a period of interpellations from November 11 to 17 followed by the period of amendments on November 24.

Sotto expects that there will be no problems in the bicameral conference and the bicam report will be approved by December 8.

The Senate expects the President to sign the bill on December 25.

“We still have to work overtime,” Sotto said, considering the number of agencies and sub agencies that they have to deliberate on.

“We will probably end up everyday around 12 midnight or 1:00 AM para lang matapos namin ang [just to finish the] period of interpellations by the 17th,” he added.

One agency that they intend to scrutinize well is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPHW) particularly the issue on alleged lump sums and and big budget allocations to selected local government projects.

He stressed that deliberations will not be affected even if Senator Cynthia Villar has to face her son DPWH Secretary Mark Villar in the deliberations.

“We will not soft-pedal on DPWH. Knowing Cynthia (Villar), hinahayaan lang naman niya [she just let everything flow]. I’ve seen it in the past. Ang daming interpellations sa DPWH hindi naman siya nang-aawat [Many times DPWH entered into interpellations she never interrupted]. It’s alright,” he said. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate probes distance learning quality, deferment of proposed resumption of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   February 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate panel will conduct an inquiry on Wednesday on the quality of distance learning, other psycho-social concerns, and the implications of postponing the resumption of face-to face classes amid the threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said that during the hearing, he will urge the Department of Education (DepEd) to use all available tools and resources to avert a looming ‘learning crisis’ as part of its next steps in mitigating the “pernicious effects” of distance learning.

Gatchalian earlier expressed fears that a huge chunk of more than 25 million learners in the basic education sector might end up “unprepared” for their next level of schooling.

While DepEd has exhausted all possible steps to provide for continued education amid the pandemic, Gatchalian stressed that several challenges still hound the rollout of distance learning, including the inadequacy of connectivity, lack of enough guidance from teachers, and the quality and effectiveness of self-learning modules, among others.

“Dahil ipagpapaliban muna nating muli ang pagkakaroon ng face-to-face classes, mahalagang magkaroon tayo ng kaliwanagan sa kung ano ba ang magiging pangmatagalang epekto nito sa ating mga mag-aaral, lalo na’t hinaharap nila ang maraming mga hamong may kinalaman sa epektibong pagpapatupad ng distance learning,” Gatchalian said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

“Ang ating layunin sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon sa gitna ng pandemya ay masigurong natututo ang ating mga mag-aaral at maging handa sila para sa susunod na antas ng kanilang pag-aaral,” he added.

Duterte earlier thumbed down fresh proposals to resume face-to-face classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque relayed the president’s decision not to allow any in-person classes until the vaccination program has been rolled out in the country.

Roque, however, said that face-to-face classes may be considered in August this year after the launch of the immunization drive.

A pilot test of limited face-to-face classes was supposed to be held by the government last January but was ordered suspended by Duterte due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

Senate approves proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act

Marje Pelayo   •   February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate of the Philippines approved, on third reading, the proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act that seeks to expedite the process of vaccine procurement in the country.

Twenty two (22) senators voted in favor of the measure.

Under Senate Bill 2057, local government units (LGUs) may procure COVID-19 vaccines for 75% of their target population.

Also, the LGUs will be allowed to make advance payments to the vaccine manufacturer.

The bill also provides a COVID-19 national vaccine indemnity fund or payment for damages should the vaccinee experienced serious side effects.

The House of Representatives on Monday (February 22) approved its own version of the bill after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the proposed measure as urgent.

Senate approves Labor Education Act on third and final reading

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Senate has approved the Labor Education Act on the third and final reading.

Senate Bill No. 1513 or the Labor Education Act seeks to mandate all public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) to integrate labor education as part of an elective course.

Under the bill, HEIs and tech-voc training institutes shall hold a Labor Empowerment and Career Guidance conference which graduating students shall attend.

Senator Joel Villanueva, the principal sponsor of the Senate Bill, said around 700,000 students graduate from HEIs every year.

However, these students have little knowledge of their labor rights and access to legal aid or assistance. This makes them vulnerable to labor exploitation, according to the Senator.

“At present, the regions that have the highest number of students enrolled in higher education institutions are also the regions where establishments record dismal compliance to labor laws. Unfortunately, there is no clear core subject in the higher, technical, and vocational education sectors where labor education is comprehensively covered,” he said.

Villanueva also noted the enactment of the bill would ensure that every Filipino worker would be aware of his/her rights which include labor issues such as unemployment and underemployment, problems concerning fair wages, job security, safe workplaces, social protection, and unfair labor practices. -AAC

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