Talks on ABS-CBN franchise will have to wait for next Congress — Speaker Velasco

Marje Pelayo   •   February 11, 2021   •   422

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Allan Velasco maintained that calls to revive the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN will have to wait until the next Congress.

In a statement on Thursday (February 11), Velasco said the 18th Congress only has a year until the 2022 elections.

Thus, he said, “The House of Representatives is bent on finishing the remaining priority measures of this Administration to ensure that President Rodrigo Duterte fulfills his campaign promise to the Filipino people.” 

On top of these priority legislation, Velasco said, Congress is working double time to accomplish priority legislation such as the passage of the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act or the Bayanihan 3, as well as other economic bills geared toward rebuilding the Philippine economy following the impact of the global pandemic.

Several lawmakers have moved to revive the media giant’s franchise application by filing proposed measures to the same Congress that denied it in July 2020. 

READ: Duterte won’t allow ABS-CBN to operate even if Congress grants a franchise, unless…

Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated that he will not allow ABS-CBN to operate even if Congress grants a franchise unless the media firm settles its unpaid taxes to the government.

Speaker Velasco expects House committee to approve Bayanihan 3 before session resumes in May

Marje Pelayo   •   April 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Allan Velasco expressed confidence that the Lower House will be able to approve the Bayanihan 3 before it resumes session on May 17.

The House leader said the country’s economic managers are now studying potential funding sources for the measure which is seen as a “lifeline” for Filipinos whose livelihood have been affected by the pandemic.

Velasco confirmed that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado assured him that both the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management are now in the process of identifying sources of funds in order to move forward Bayanihan 3

“We are extremely hopeful for the passage of Bayanihan 3, which is a much-bigger, well-targeted and proportionate stimulus package that would help struggling Filipinos and revive our pandemic-ravaged economy,” Velasco said.

“A third round of fiscal support is in order to relieve the economic struggle experienced by many Filipinos, particularly those with low incomes, and help businesses stay afloat during the pandemic,” he added.

Velasco and Marikina City 2nd District Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, a noted economist, earlier filed their own version of Bayanihan 3 under House Bill 8628 or the “Bayanihan to Arise As One Act,” which proposes a P420-billion fund to stimulate the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

The measure seeks to allocate 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, and P5 billion for the rehabilitation of areas impacted by recent floods and typhoons.

Under the measure, each household member will receive 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.

HB 8628 is pending with the House Committee on Economic Affairs, which created a technical working group to consolidate all Bayanihan 3-related measures.

To date, 224 members from the supermajority, minority and independent blocs in the House have signed either as principal authors or co-authors of Velasco’s Bayanihan 3 bill.

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.”

Senate on lockdown after staff tests positive for COVID-19

Marje Pelayo   •   March 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate of the Philippines will be under “total lockdown” on Tuesday, March 16, to give way to sanitation and disinfection of premises after a staff tested positive for COVID-19.

A personnel from the Legislative Bills and Index Service was confirmed positive for coronavirus on Monday, March 15.

“The entire Bills and Index (Service) is now quarantined. And so with that, we cannot make any amendments, any other bills to take up until the full sanitation is done,” said Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Sotto assured that none of the senators were exposed to the infected employee.

He added that only virtual hearings will be allowed on Tuesday while on-site sessions will resume on Wednesday (March 17).

Senator Richard Gordon offered the services of the Philippine Red Cross in case the Senate agrees to conduct a saliva-based COVID-19 testing.

Three employees of the Senate’s in-house catering service had also recently tested positive for COVID-19.

It prompted the Senate president to cut short the session time to until 6:00 p.m. as they could not compromise the schedule of deliberations given the load of proposed measures that they have to address.

The 18th Congress is set to suspend sessions for the 2nd regular session from  March 27 to May 16. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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