By Butch Fernandez, August 29, 2023; Business Mirror

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday said the signing into law of four measures “will positively impact the lives of Filipinos socially, economically and culturally.”

In a statement, he said, speaking in Filipino, “We believe these measures will bring relief and progress to many of our people.”

President Marcos Jr. recently signed into law these measures:

  1. Republic Act No. 11958 titled “An Act Rationalizing the Disability Pension of Veterans”
  2. Republic Act No. 11960 titled “OTOP Philippines Act”
  3. Republic Act No. 11961 or the “An Act Strengthening the Conservation and Protection of Philippine Cultural Heritage …”
  4. Republic Act 11959 titled “Regional Specialty Centers Act.”

These laws, Zubiri said, “have been exhaustively deliberated in the halls of the 19th Congress to meet the increasing demands of the changing times and enhance public service to Filipino citizens.”

The Senate chief thanked the president for signing the measures into law, and praised the work of senators “in deliberating on these measures and making sure the intended benefits indeed favor their target beneficiaries.” The “People’s Senate is committed to passing more legislation that will benefit the Filipino people,” the aenate president added.

The four laws are impactful measures, he explained, because they increase disability pensions of veterans, strengthen the One Town, One Product Program, push for further conservation of the country’s cultural heritage and, finally, pave the way for regional specialty hospitals.

RA 11958 will upgrade the benefits of veterans with disabilities whose rates remained unresponsive to the needs of today – or over 30 years ago.

If the veteran reaches the age of 70 and has not been granted benefits from the law, he will be deemed disabled and will get a monthly pension of P1,700.

RA 11960 or the OTOP Philippines Act, meanwhile, aims to empower and support local industries, especially in rural areas, by encouraging entrepreneurship and promoting local products as a means of economic growth.

It mandates the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to craft a six-year, national OTOP strategic development plan within a year. It also mandates government to provide product promotion and market access for OTOP beneficiaries.

RA 11961, on the other hand, seeks to strengthen the protection and conservation of the country’s cultural heritage through cultural mapping, amending Republic Act No. 10066 or the “National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.”

The new law defines cultural mapping as the identification, recording and use of cultural resources of communities.

Among the salient points of the measure is the creation of a Philippine Registry of Heritage, where all cultural properties and natural properties of cultural significance of the country shall be registered.

The fourth new law, RA 11959, seeks to establish specialty centers in government hospitals in every region all over the country.

It seeks to decongest national specialty centers located in Metro Manila and bring these specialty centers closer to the people. It also provides the criteria for the creation of specialty centers in a region, which includes, but not limited to: evidence of health needs of demands; service capabilities of the hospital and geographic proximity; and availability of health human resources.

The Regional Specialty Centers Act is principally authored and co-sponsored by Zubiri himself with Sen. Bong Go as the principal sponsor. It is a fulfilled campaign promise he made during the last national elections.