MANILA – The of House of Representatives has focused on quality and responsive legislation rather than on quantity in the 16th Congress.
“We are focused on quality. We just did what was needed by our people and the future generations of Filipinos,” said Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
Stressing the vitality of unity of purpose, the Speaker expressed his gratitude to all his colleagues, both members of the majority coalition, minority and independents, for their cooperation and collective efforts in facing squarely the challenges of governance reforms and national development.
“As you may observe, my dear colleagues, we have been mindful of the demands and imperatives of our time as we have supported competitiveness-raising, job generation and more sustainable development through the policies we have enacted,” Belmonte said in his closing message on the last day of session for this year.
While noting that serious challenges were faced during the year 2015, the Speaker confidently surmised that the passing year’s positive developments outweighed them, stressing that “we have a House united and focused on serving the highest welfare and interests of our people.”
Visibly delighted over President Benigno Aquino III’s signing into law of the 2016 General Appropriations Act, the Speaker proudly said that the 16th Congress has established a “new norm” in the enactment of the government’s annual national budget.
“There was no re-enacted national budget for the past six consecutive years,” Belmonte stressed, adding that “the next government and succeeding Congresses will have no more excuses for failing to pass the budget on time, so that re-enacted budgets will truly be a thing of the past.”
For those interested in statistics, the Speaker obliged by citing data provided by the House Rules Committee chaired by Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II and released by the office of the House Secretary General, Atty. Marilyn Barua-Yap.
From July 22, 2013 to December 16, 2015, during the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regular sessions, with a total 182 session days, the bigger Chamber of Congress was able to process 2,934 measures, broken down as follow:
A) Measures Approved:
1) Enacted into Law – 91 (including the 2016 GAA) – National (69) / Local 17 / Joint Resolution 5; 2) Transmitted to the President – 26; 3) Ratified Bicam Reports – 5 (all national); 4) Adopted Senate Versions- 2 (national); 5) Concurred with Senate amendments – 3 (National); 6) Passed by the Senate without amendments – 2 (National); 7) On Bicameral Conference – 6 (National 4 / Local 1 / Joint Resolution 1); 8) Approved on 3rd Reading – 620 (National 238/Local 374/Joint Resolution 4); 9) Approved on 2nd Reading – 12 (National 8/local 2; Resolution of Both Houses 1 / Joint Resolution 1); 10) Adopted Resolutions – 266 (Concurrent Resolution 13 / Regular Resolutions 242 / Report on Resolutions on Inquiry 11.
B) Measures in the Calendar of Business – 33;
C) Measures Substituted/Consolidated – 1,328;
D) Referral of Resolutions on Inquiries – 540(Total Measures Processed = 2,934).
The timely enactment of the annual budget, he said, is a significant component in the improvement of public financial management and of the country’s macroeconomic environment that has resulted in the upgrade of its credit rating and competitiveness ranking.
“To date, all major credit rating agencies have given the Philippines an investment grade. Our ranking in the World Economic Forum-Global Competitiveness Report has improved by no less than 38 ranks from 85th in 2010 to 47th in 2015 out of 144 countries,” he recalled, citing data provided by the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department of the House of Representatives.
Belmonte said the country’s macroeconomic environment, one of the 12 major pillars of the competitiveness report in particular, improved by 44 ranks from 68th to 24th during the said period.
Congress, aside from the budget, enacted “game changing” laws to bolster competitiveness of the economy and sustain economic growth that made the nation one of the best performers among the emerging economies. Among these are:
**R.A. 10667, Providing for a National Competition Policy prohibiting Anti-Competitive Agreements, Abuse of Dominant Position and Anti-Competitive Mergers and Acquisitions:
**RA 1668, Allowing Foreign Vessels to Transport and Co-load Foreign Cargoes for Domestic Transshipment;
**RA 10708, Instituting the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA);**RA 10659, Promoting and Supporting the Competitiveness of the Sugarcane Industry;
**RA 10697, Preventing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction by Managing the Trade of Strategic Goods, the Provision of Related Services, and for other purposes.
On the matter of creating more job opportunities, make Filipino professionals and workers more competitive, and increase their take-home pay, the following laws were enacted:
** RA 10691, Defining the Role of the Department of Labor and Employment, the Local Government Units and Accredited Non-Government Organizations in the establishment and operation of the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) and Job Placement Offices;
**RA 10665, Establishing the Open High School System in the Philippines;
**RA 10679, Promoting Entrepreneurship and Financial Education among Filipino Youth; and
**RA 10693, Strengthening Non-government Organizations (NGOs) Engaged in Microfinance Operations for the Poor.
Relative to the enhancement of the quality and competitiveness of Filipino professionals, the House leader cited the following:
**RA 10657, Regulating and Modernizing the Practice of Chemistry in the Philippines;
**RA 10688, Regulating the Practice of Metallurgical engineering in the Philippines;
**RA 10706, Protecting Seafarers Against Ambulance Chasing and Imposition of Excessive Fees;
**RA 10698, An Act to Regulate and Modernize the Practice of Naval Architecture in the Philippines;
**RA 10690, Regulating the Practice of Forestry in the Philippines;
**RA 10699, Expanding the Coverage of Incentives Granted to National Athletes and Coaches.
To increase the take-home pay of workers, which would benefit them starting this Christmas, Belmonte cited RA 10953, “Adjusting the 13th Month Pay and other Benefits Ceiling for purposes of Income Taxation.”
Congress, likewise faced issues related to effects of climate change, measures to improve the preparedness of the people and reduce, if not mitigate, the damage and casualties from natural disasters. The legislative list included the following:
**RA 10692, Providing for the Modernization of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa);
**RA 10654, To Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, amending RA 8550, otherwise known as the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.
And last but equally vital to sustainable and meaningful inclusive growth, the Speaker underscored the need to improve and strengthen the country’s justice system which, not just requires the creation of additional trial courts all over the country, but laws like the following:
**RA 10660, Strengthening further the Functional and Structural Organization of the Sandiganbayan; and
**RA 10655, Repealing the Crime of Premature Marriage.
Underscoring the bigger chamber’s determination to concretize efforts to enhance competitiveness-raising, job generation and a more sustainable development through policies, he cited the approval on Third Reading the following:
a) the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act; b) the Amendments to the BSP Law; c) the amendments to the Social Security Act of 1996; d) the creation of the Coco Levy Trust Fund; e) the bill creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology; f) Salary Standardization Law of 2015; and g) the bill regulating the practice of nutrition and dietetics in the country, among others.
“We have tangible and genuine hope based on an economy that is performing well, entire communities now recovering successfully from the worst storms in human history, and regional developments that bode well for the creation of more jobs and opportunities for our people,” Belmonte stressed.
With this, the House leadership emphasized that the chamber will remain “united and focused on serving the highest welfare and interests of the Filipino people.”
“We will never renege on our constitutional mandate to promote good governance and protect the national interest and our people’s welfare, despite the time constraint now faced by the 16th Congress,” he noted.
The House leader remains confident that the priority bills including the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) bill, and the amendments to the economic provisions of our Constitution would be passed within the term of the current Congress.