YEARENDER: Senate delivers amid Covid-19 pandemic

YEARENDER: Senate delivers amid Covid-19 pandemic

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — The Senate has remained committed to fulfilling its legislative tasks aimed at improving the quality of life and well-being of the Filipinos amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said that while the ongoing pandemic has yet to have a clear end in sight, there are a lot of reasons to remain hopeful.

In a virtual interview, Sotto said the Senate made sure, through various legislation, that the economy would bounce back to its pre-pandemic status.

“With the easing lockdown, we expect our economy to improve further in the last quarter of the year. This indicates that economic activities have started to pick up. Thanks to the aggressive vaccination rollout drive and the willingness of our people to get vaccinated. With more of us being vaccinated and receiving booster shots, we know that our situation is likely to improve in the days to come,” Sotto said.

The upper chamber adjourned its session on December 16, 2021, to go on a month-long Christmas break and would resume session on January 17, 2022.

Sotto said the Senate’s accomplishment for the year included the approval of the

P5.024 trillion national budget for 2022, which the chamber ratified and adopted before it went on a break.

He said frontline agencies namely, the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Department of Health (DOH), received the top budget allocations.

“Overall, Congress prioritized health budget to ease the limitations brought about by the lockdown and this will consequently redound to the opening of the economy,” he added.

Sotto said DOH was also granted assistance through Republic Act No. 11525. The law provides for a procurement process for the vaccine and its administration.

“Your Senate also filed bills that shall assist farmers and create jobs. Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1927 or Cash Assistance for Filipino Farmers Act of 2020 has been passed by both Houses. In addition, Senate Bill 1590 or Trabaho sa Oras ng Pandemya Act is now pending in the Committee. This bill shall create jobs for skilled and unskilled workers in government offices or any government projects in infrastructure, flood control, historic sites, and others,” Sotto said.

Sotto also highlighted the approval on the final reading of the Department of Migrant Workers Act which, he believed, was a well-deserved Christmas gift for overseas Filipino workers who are considered our modern-day and economic heroes.

He said the chamber also approved the passage of SBN 1840 or the Amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act seeking to lower the minimum investment for foreign retailers to P25 million; and SBN 2094, which sought to amend the 85-year-old Public Service Act in a bid to improve the quality of public services and goods at lower costs to Filipinos.

Before it went on a break, the Senate also approved on final reading SBN 2395 or the SIM Card Registration Act which sought to eradicate criminal activities aided by mobile phone, internet, or other electronic communication devices; SBN 1411 or the Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Bill aimed at providing further protection to solo parents; and SBN 2239 or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act which sought to regulate the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use and consumption of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

Nine bills were already enacted into law during the first half of the Third Regular Session of the 18th Congress, namely, the Republic Act (R.A.) No. 11572 (Philippine Energy Research and Policy Institute), R.A. 11573 (Confirmation of Imperfect Titles), R.A. 11576 (Judiciary Reorganization), R.A. 11589 (Bureau of Fire Protection Modernization Act of 2020), R.A. 11590 (Taxing Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations), R.A. No. 11591 SBN-2408 2022 (Fixing the Last Day of Registration of Voters for the 2022 National and Local Elections), R.A. 11592 (Liquefied Petroleum Gas Act), R.A 11593 (Resetting the First Regular Elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao), and R.A.11594 (Amending the revised penal code).

With this, Sotto thanked the people for being with the Senate “throughout its little and big steps, whether in paths rough or smooth or those unpaved.”

“To all our countrymen, whatever their religion, wherever they are in the world, thank you for listening and trusting the Senate. The pandemic may still seem far from over but rest assured that your Senate is unceasing in doing its share in finding hope amid this pandemic,” Sotto said.

(ai/mtvn)

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