That, in sum, is the report Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez rendered tonight to members of the House of Representatives, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., and the nation in general before Congress adjourned for its first second-regular-session recess.
The Speaker expressed his “heartfelt appreciation and profound gratitude” to his colleagues, including members of the minority, and House personnel for his chamber’s record accomplishment.
He recalled that last July 5, during the second full meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), there were 20 priority bills targeted for approval by both houses of Congress by the end of December 2023.
As of adjournment time, Speaker Romualdez said he was proud to report that the House has approved all the 20 measures LEDAC members had agreed to have Congress pass by the end of this year.
“We are three months ahead of target…Salamat sa tulong ninyong lahat. Mission accomplished po tayo – tatlong buwan bago matapos ang deadline na nakagkasunduan ng Senate, House of Representatives at Executive department,” Speaker Romualdez, the head of the 311-strong House of Representatives, said.
“I have no doubt that our collective action, imbued with competence and a passion for public service, led us to deliver responsive and relevant legislative measures required to champion social justice and economic development,” he said.
Speaker Romualdez cited the proposed P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024 among the priority measures passed by the House.
“We are confident that every centavo reflects the overarching targets of ushering economic transformation towards inclusivity and sustainability and is in line with the administration’s medium-term fiscal framework, the 8-point socioeconomic agenda, and the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028,” he said.
He said though the budget deliberations were transparent, they were at times difficult, including discussions on the use of intelligence and confidential funds.
“We underscored the need for agencies to abide by the strict accounting and auditing rules governing the handling and release of such funds, and emphasized the need to safeguard their efficient and responsible utilization,” he said.
He pointed out that during its consideration of the budget, the House listened to the people about issues and problems they have to face every day and the solutions they offered. “Tiwala ako na handi lamang makakatulong ang ipinasa nating budget para mapabuti ang kalagayan ng mga Pilipino. Susi rin ito para magtuloy-tuloy ang ating pagbangon tungo sa mas magandang kinabukasan,” he added. Speaker Romualdez enumerated the 20 LEDAC-agreed priority bills the House has approved, including two the President may sign into law soon: House Bill (HB) 7006, or Automatic Income Classification Act for Local Government Units, and HB 8278 or the Philippine Salt Industry Development Act.
“The Trabaho para sa Bayan Act was signed into law earlier today (Wednesday) while five of these twenty priority measures are inches away from becoming a law,” Speaker Romualdez said.
The 14 other measures passed on third and final reading are:
(1) HB 6522 – Philippine Centers for Disease Prevention and Control Act
(2). HB 6518 – Health Auxiliary Reinforcement Team Act
(3) HB 6452 – Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines Act
(4) HB 6687 – Instituting a National Citizens Service Program
(5) HB 6558 – Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act
(6) HB 7327 – E-Governance/E-Government Act
(7) HB 6444 – Waste Treatment Technology Act
(8) HB 6510 – New Philippine Passport Act
(9) HB 7325 – Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers
(10) HB 7240 – National Government Rightsizing Act
(11) HB 7393 – Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act
(12) HB 7446 – Amending the Bank Secrecy Law
(13) HB 8969 – Military and Other Uniformed Personnel Pension Act
(14) HB 9284 – Anti Agri-fishery Commodities and Tobacco Economic Sabotage Act of 2023
(15) Likewise, President Marcos signed into law the Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act (National Employment Recovery Strategy) as Republic Act (RA) No. 11962.
(16) HB 7006 or the “Automatic Income Classification Act for Local Government Units” has been transmitted to Malacañang for appropriate action
(17) The House adopted Senate Bill 1846 as an amendment to HB 0004 or the Internet Transactions or E-Commerce Law
(18 and 19) On Wednesday, the House ratified conference committee reports on HB 6527, or the Public-Private Partnership Act, and
(19) HB 4125, or the Ease of Paying Taxes Act
(20) HB 8278 or the proposed Philippine Salt Industry Development Act is undergoing deliberations in the bicameral conference committee, bringing to 20 the total measures the House has approved from the 20 LEDAC bills it committed to pass at the end of the year.
Speaker Romualdez said eight bills had been signed into law since last July when Congress convened for its second regular session.
These are RA 11962 or the Trabaho Para Sa Bayan Act, RA 11956 extending the tax amnesty availment period, RA 11958 increases the disability pension of veterans, RA 11959, or Regional Specialty Centers Act, RA 11960 or OTOP Philippines Act, and RA 11961 amending the National Cultural Heritage Act.
Before the start of the Second Regular Session, the President signed RA 11953, or New Agrarian Emancipation Act, and RA 11954 of Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023.
The Speaker further reported that of the 17 measures mentioned by President Marcos in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July, 10 have already been passed on third and final reading by the House, including the ratified conference committee report on Local Government Unit Income Classification and the Ease of Paying Taxes Act; and eight other bills: the Fiscal Regime for the Mining Industry; the MUP Pension; the Amendments to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act; the Single-Use Plastic Bags Tax Act; VAT on Digital Services; the Amendment of the Fisheries Code; the Anti-Financial Accounts Scamming Act; the Ease of Paying Taxes Act; and the Immigration Modernization Act.
“The rest are already in advanced stages and are scheduled to be reported out when Congress resumes session in November, and targeted for approval on third reading by December 2023,” Speaker Romualdez said.
“It is also important to note that we were able to pass on third and final reading urgent measures identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council, including HB 8456 or the “Philippine Downstream Natural Gas Industry Development Act” and HB 8443 or the “Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System (PENCAS) act”. We still have a lot on our legislative table and other urgent measures are in various stages of deliberation,” Speaker Romualdez said.
He said the House of Representatives likewise approved on third reading several local bills on marine hatcheries, fish ports, national high schools, hospitals, skills and development, eco-parks and national shrines, environment, roads and highways, and tourism.
Speaker Romualdez said the House is likewise in the process of reviewing laws on direct foreign investments.
“On top of that, we are cognizant that foreign direct investments (FDIs) are the largest source of external financing in developing countries. Hence, the House of Representatives is in the process of reviewing laws that govern the treatment of foreign direct investments in the Philippines,” he said.
“To effectuate substantive changes in the economic landscape, it is imperative that we amend those archaic and obsolete laws and open up the country to more foreign direct investments, ease capital constraints, and contribute to output and employment growth. Seeing its value, the president stressed the policy to make our legislation relevant and effective. to this, we must gladly comply,” he said.
He said House members “have been diligent in our parliamentary duties not only because it is expected of us, but also because we continue to be a faithful and dependable partner of the Executive department in bringing about policies that enhance the wellbeing of our fellow Filipinos and strengthen the capacities of both the national and local governments.”
“I am confident that with our steady and stable pace, driven by our eagerness to fulfill our duties, the rest of our targets are achievable. Let us do our best and prove that through our solid efforts, the nation is in good hands…Let us continue working to fulfill our obligation and tackle the law-making process with greater fervor,” he told his colleagues.
Speaker Romualdez also recognized the secretariat and congressional staff for their hard work, resulting in the record-breaking accomplishments of the House of Representatives.
“Again, I thank all of you, including our hardworking secretariat and congressional staff, for a commendable job. Congratulations for the hard work, support, and efficiency,” Speaker Romualdez said.