Speaker cites record House achievements this year, says rice subsidy in 2024 budget to bring down staple’s price

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Wednesday night took pride in the record achievements of the House of Representatives this year in terms of approved bills that would sustain economic growth, create more jobs, and income opportunities and in general, make life better for the people.

In his remarks before adjourning the session of the House of Representatives for its Christmas recess, the Speaker said in addition to these “sterling accomplishments,” the House ratified last Monday the “most important measure that we passed this year – the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for Fiscal Year 2024.”

“The House of Representatives considers it a core mission to utilize the national budget next year to address four major concerns: fight inflation, keep the price of rice and other basic food items at affordable levels, provide more jobs and livelihood, and expand social services,” he said.

He said next year’s outlay includes a “revolutionary rice subsidy program” of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr.

“With this new program, we seek to drive down the price of quality rice by almost half for 28 million Filipinos who are under challenging situations,” he added

“Kung maipapatupad ang programang ito, magagamit ng ating mga kababayan ang pera nila para makabili ng bigas nang hindi lalampas sa P30 per kilo. Hindi rin lugi dito ang mga kapatıd nating magsasaka dahil gagamitin ang government subsidy sa pagbili ng bigas mula sa kanilang palayan,” Speaker Romualdez stressed.

He pointed out that the rice subsidy program would be implemented in all districts, cities and communities, from Aparri in Cagayan in the north to Jolo, Sulu in the south.

The leader of the 300-plus-strong House of Representatives told his colleagues that his chamber, under his leadership, also took a “more activist role” in nation-building.

“Many have noticed that the House of the People, perhaps for the first time, is exercising fully its oversight function to address the concerns of ordinary Filipinos,” he said.

In aid of legislation, he said the House exposed and brought down a cartel in the onion industry, driving the agricultural product’s price back to manageable level.

“We are fighting the cartels behind smuggling, hoarding and price manipulation of rice and other food commodities. We are helping the executive department in its relentless war against big-time drug traffickers,” he said.

“Kasama tayong lagi ng Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Jr. sa lahat ng laban niya – laban para wakasan ang kahirapan, laban kontra droga, laban para sa kapayapaan at kasaganaan ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino,” he said.

Touching on the House accomplishments, the Speaker reported that 

the House had passed all 20 measures prioritized by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council  (LEDAC) as of September, “or three months ahead of schedule.”

He said President Marcos, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 2023, mentioned 17 priority bills “sustain our economic recovery and improve the living condition of our people.”

“It is with great pride and honor to report to this august chamber that we passed all of these 17 SONA priority measures seven months ahead of the President’s next SONA in July 2024,” he said.

He said with the timely approval of urgent legislative proposals endorsed by the President and the LEDAC, “we, as the duty elected representatives of the Filipino people, have done our bounden duty to realize their aspirations by strengthening the economy, revitalizing businesses and broadening the scope of services provided to the majority of our citizenry.”

“This august body recognizes the urgency and significance of these measures, and I am proud to say that everyone has done his and her share in actively participating in legislative discussions, building consensus and advocating the approval of these critical measures,” he added.

The House leader enumerated priority bills his chamber has approved, many of which were commonly listed by the LDEAC and by the President in his SONA

Of the 20 LEDAC measures, four have been enacted into law:  1) The National Employment Master Plan or Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act; 2) LGU Income Classification Act; 3) Internet Transactions Act; and 4) Public-Private Partnership Code of the Philippines.

In addition, both Houses of Congress have already ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the New Philippine Passport Act and the Philippine Industry Development Act.

Speaker Romualdez said among the 17 SONA bills, the Automatic Income Classification of Local Government Units Act has been signed into law (Republic Act No. 11964) by the President last October 26.

“This particular measure is projected to promote greater local autonomy and enable our local government units to realize their full economic potential with higher financial capability and better fiscal position,” he said.

He said the Ease of Paying Taxes Act “is another SONA measure that is expected to drive foreign direct investments and enhance the country’s competitiveness as an investment destination.”

This proposed law has been approved by the bicameral conference committee last December 6 and has been sent to President Marcos.

As of November 28, 10 out of the 17 SONA measures have been approved by the House on third and final reading.

These include amendments to the Fisheries Code, excise tax on single-use plastics, VAT on digital transactions, Anti-Financial Accounts Scramming Act, Philippine Immigration Act, Rationalization of Mining Fiscal Regime, Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension Reform Act, and amendments to the Anti-Agriculture Smuggling Law.

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the remaining SONA priority measures to complete the 17, six of which are LEDAC-identified priorities.

He enumerated the six:

1)  Tatak Pinoy (Proudly Filipino) Act, which seeks to promote the production and offering of diverse globally competitive Philippine products and services by domestic enterprises.

2)   The Blue Economy Act, which consolidates all interventions in a single framework that promotes a whole-of-nation approach to sustainably develop, manage, protect, and preserve the country’s Martine and coastal resources.

3)  Creation of the Department of Water Resources and Water Regulatory Commission to unify policy-making, planning, management, and regulation of water resources.

4) Updating of the Revised Cooperative Code of the Philippines to keep it abreast with current situations in the agriculture sector.

5)  Updating of the Revised Government Auditing Code to align it with international accounting and auditing standards, and to utilize emerging technologies and innovative solutions in audit processes.

6)   Proposed New Government Procurement Reform Act, which provides for cost-effective, transparent, competitive, streamlined, sustainable, active, and inclusive procurement activities of the government.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives ratified the Revitalizing the Salt Industry in the Philippines, Tatak Pinoy, and the Creation of the Department of Water Resources and Water Regulatory Commission.

The Speaker said the House has also ratified bicameral conference committee reports on the No Permit, No Prohibition Act, which prohibits any policy that prevents students in public and private schools from taking examinations without paying tuition or other fees, and the bill granting benefits to Filipino octogenarians and nonagenarians, and additional privileges to Filipino centenarians.

“It is our way of honoring our elderly who have spent their younger and fruitful years for the service of the country. This is also a recognition for their discipline to live a long and healthy life,” he said.

The House leader told members of his chamber that as they adjourn for the Christmas recess, they are ending “another year with remarkable accomplishments owing to the collective efforts and commendable dedication of all of you.”

“I attribute the high level of legislative performance to the unity in aspirations and unselfish cooperation of the individual member of the House of Representatives. Despite our differences in opinions and beliefs, we worked together to champion the cause of good governance in fulfillment of our duty to serve the highest interest of the Filipino people,” he said.

Speaker Romualdez expressed his “deepest appreciation” for his colleagues’ “unending support and cooperation.”

He also thanked members of the chamber’s leadership, the minority and the secretariat “for their efficient, brilliant and constant services in ensuring the passage of these measures.”

He wished everyone a “memorable yet meaningful holiday celebration.”

“Let us never forget the true spirit of the season – a season of hope, of loving, of giving, and of forgiving,” he said.

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