MANILA – The House of Representatives opened the second regular session of the 18th Congress on Monday morning, ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The lower chamber started the session at around 10:25 a.m. with only a few House members allowed to be physically present at the plenary hall, while the others attended via teleconferencing.
In his opening speech, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has exposed the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters.
Cayetano urged his colleagues to speak with all “honesty, candor, and humility” during this time of unprecedented crisis.
“The enormity, the challenges, and the severity of the crisis we face require much faith, sacrifice, and hard work, not just from our leaders but from each and every one of us,” Cayetano said.
“This is not the time to be unclear as to the intentions of this House of the People, instead, we must speak frankly and truthfully, surely about our hopes and aspirations but also and perhaps more importantly, about our uncertainties,” he added.
He noted that the greatest task of the government is to keep Filipinos safe and healthy while getting back to work.
“We need to rebuild and retool those industries that have been gutted by this pandemic. And in this endeavor, the government will be playing a significant role,” he said.
Cayetano proposed to strengthen agriculture, tourism, manufacturing sectors augmented by robust investments in infrastructure to help the country recover from the pandemic’s effects.
He also suggested looking to the provinces as the new centers of development.
“Covid-19 has shown us the weak underbelly of our big cities. How easily they can be brought to their knees — and with it the whole nation — by disease and infection,” Cayetano said. “This is a clarion call for our urban planners, engineers, and architects. Help us build a better Philippines by de-congesting our cities and spreading the wealth to every island.”
Aside from pushing for local and regional development, Cayetano stressed that the Philippine creative industry must be revitalized.
He said the House leadership will file a bill seeking to establish the Department of Arts and Culture this week.
“So that instead of being a casualty of Covid-19, Filipino creativity and artistry will be an integral part of our arsenal for recovery,” he said.
The Senate and the House will hold a joint session at 4 p.m. at the Batasang Pambansa Complex to hear Duterte’s SONA.
On his fifth SONA, Duterte is expected to present a roadmap that will help the nation recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. (PNA)
On photo: Distanced apart and with a handful of members from both Houses of Congress, the president’s cabinet and other special groups in prepared viewing areas, the fifth state of the nation address formally prompts the commencement of the 18th Congress’ second regular session.