MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is eyeing to hold marathon sessions for the immediate passage of the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.
In a statement, Romualdez said House members have agreed to work day and night from Monday to Friday to ensure that the 2020 General Appropriations Act will be approved by October this year.
“This will give the Senate ample time to scrutinize the budget approved by the House. Hopefully we can have a bicameral conference by early December, then approve the 2020 national budget before the year ends,” he said.
The House Committee on Appropriations, headed by Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab, has started on Thursday the deliberations on the 2020 budget bill with a briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the inter-agency panel that sets the overall economic targets, expenditure levels and budget of the government.
By September 12, Romualdez said the lower chamber would hold sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, past the regular schedule of Monday to Wednesday.
He added that the plenary session was also moved from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to give way to four budget hearings scheduled by the Committee on Appropriations.
“We will hold four budget hearings daily at the committee level almost simultaneously. The hearings are scheduled at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.,” Romualdez said.
“House members may have to shuttle between hearings in order to maximize their participation in the budget deliberations. I am thankful that all the House members agreed to this schedule, which is really a tall order,” he added.
The lawmaker said he had also approved the request of Ungab to allow the holding of committee hearings on the budget even after the plenary proceedings have started at 5 p.m.
“This means that the appropriations committee may hold budget hearings at the committee level simultaneous with the plenary debates on other pending bills and resolutions,” Romualdez said.
“This will ensure that plenary deliberations on other pending issues, such as the vital revenue measures, will push through even as we are working round the clock on the budget bill,” he added.
Under Section 71 of the House Rules, congressmen are deemed present in a House session if they are attending committee meetings authorized by the House committee on rules, which is currently chaired by Romualdez as Majority Leader.
Section 35 of the House Rules, on the other hand, provides that: “Only the committee on rules and such committees to which it has granted permission, may meet while the House is in plenary session, has adjourned, or is in recess.”
Romualdez said that under these rules, the committee on appropriations “may continue with their budget hearings while the House is in plenary session.
“We are invoking the powers of the Majority Leader, as Rules Chairman, to enable the House to tackle simultaneously all the vital measures included in the President’s legislative agenda,” he said.
MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has renewed his call for the passage of Bayanihan to Arise as One Act, also known as Bayanihan 3, that will provide direct aid to Filipinos struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Velasco revived his proposal as more areas are placed under localized lockdowns and some businesses were again forced to shut down due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.
“There are a lot of Filipinos who are suffering financially and are in dire need of help now. A third economic stimulus package will provide a much-needed lifeline to individuals, families, and businesses severely affected by the pandemic,” Velasco said in a statement.
The lawmaker was referring to his own version of the Bayanihan 3 bill that proposes a P420-billion fund to stimulate the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
House Bill 8628 or the proposed Bayanihan 3 seeks to allocate the following funds:
P108 billion for additional social amelioration to impacted households
P100 billion for capacity-building for impacted sectors
P52 billion for wage subsidies
P70 billion for capacity-building for agricultural producers
P30 billion for internet allowances to students and teachers
P30 billion for assistance to displaced workers
P25 billion for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines
P5 billion for the rehabilitation of areas impacted by recent floods and typhoons
Velasco filed the measure in February after the passage of the bill extending the validity of Bayanihan 2, and upon seeing further need to allocate additional funds to help the nation cope with the pandemic.
To date, 224 members from the supermajority, minority, and independent blocs in the House of Representatives have signed either as principal authors or co-authors of the measure.
Lawmakers said reports that the Philippine economy contracted 9.5 percent in 2020—the worst performance in the country’s post-war history—underscore the importance and urgency of passing Bayanihan 3.
The country’s economic managers had reportedly said they were not sure if the third stimulus package would still be necessary if quarantine restrictions were eased further and the economy moves faster.
However, Velasco said that during a recent virtual meeting, he got an assurance from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III that efforts are being made to identify funding sources for the Bayanihan 3.
“It’s a matter of finding revenues to be able to fund those programs. Secretary Dominguez did not actually shoot down Bayanihan 3,” Velasco said.
“Definitely, he (Dominguez) really wants to help the Filipino people. Ang sinabi lang niya e give him time to look for the funding,” he added.
The measure also seeks to provide each household member P1,000 regardless of their economic status. On top of this, a P1,000 allowance will be provided to each student and teacher and P8,000 for every displaced worker.
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Thursday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking the creation of a housing rental subsidy program for informal settler families (ISF).
Voting 189-6-0, the lower house passed House Bill 8736 which seeks to promote a just, equitable, and inclusive urban development through programs providing adequate social services, broader housing options, livelihood, employment, as well as an improved quality of life for Filipinos.
The measure proposes to enable ISFs to access the formal housing market and facilitate the temporary relocation of families who were displaced due to natural and man-made disasters.
The bill stipulates that eligible ISFs in Metro Manila would receive a flat rental subsidy rate of P3,500.
Meanwhile, the rates for those living in other regions would be determined by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), taking into consideration the prevailing minimum wage and rental rates per region, but not exceeding P3,500.
The bill mandates that the rental subsidy shall not exceed the actual rent, provided that such subsidy may be reviewed or revised by the DHSUD and NEDA not more than once every two years to conform to prevailing economic conditions.
The rental subsidy shall be granted to eligible beneficiaries until the date of completion of or upon their actual transfer to the permanent housing project intended for them.
Program applicants shall be required to vacate the informal settlement area they are currently occupying and relocate to a safer area in order to receive the rental subsidy.
Beneficiaries shall be prohibited from moving back to the area where they were originally living unless permitted by proper government authorities and obliges them to pay that portion of the rent in excess of the subsidy.
MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Allan Velasco has placed the entire House of Representatives on a four-day lockdown beginning Thursday (March 18) until Sunday (March 21) in response to the surge of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila.
Velasco issued the order Wednesday night (March 17), as he instructed House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza to ensure the strict implementation of the lockdown within the House premises in Batasan Complex for the protection of its members and employees.
“We have decided to place the entire Batasan Complex on a temporary lockdown from March 18 to 21 as a precautionary measure to protect the health and safety of House members and employees in view of the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila,” Velasco said.
The House leader also reiterated his appeal to the public to remain vigilant and continue all public health precautions against COVID-19 which has infected more than 600, 000 Filipinos from which 12, 866 already died as of March 17 toll.
“Now, more than ever, it is important to continue to maintain proper physical distancing, and practice good hygiene, as well as wear face mask and face shield,” Velasco said.
“These are small steps that will surely help us in a big way to protect ourselves and our loved ones from contracting the virus as we continue the battle against this deadly disease. So please don’t let your guard down,” he added.
In his announcement Wednesday night, Velasco enjoined lawmakers and employees to stay at home during the four-day lockdown and proceed with the usual virtual live streaming of scheduled meetings and hearings “not just to protect ourselves, but also to help arrest the spread of the virus.”
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