By Dempsey Reyes, Nestor Corrales, September 21, 2023; Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers on Wednesday assured President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that Congress was on track to pass the 20 priority legislations of his administration before the year ends, including the P5.7-trillion national budget for 2024, according to Malacañang.

Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria Garafil said lawmakers gave the president the assurance during the third Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) meeting in Malacañang.

“Both houses of Congress are on track for the December passage of the 20 priority measures requested by [President Marcos], including the General Appropriations Bill,” Garafil said in a statement.

The Palace official said Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri told Mr. Marcos that the Senate has finished about half of the 20 priority legislations requested by the President for a December passage.

“We will pass this (legislative agenda), including the General Appropriations Act, as soon as possible, until the end of the year, which is this December,” Zubiri said after the meeting.

Garafil said Speaker Martin Romualdez reported during the meeting that the House of Representatives had already approved 18 out of the 20 legislations on their third and final reading, among them:

  • the institution of a National Citizens Service Training program
  • the Internet Transaction Act/e-commerce law
  • the creation of  the Health Emergency Auxiliary Reinforcement Team
  • the E-Governance Act
  • the Ease of Paying Taxes Act
  • the Waste-to-Energy bill
  • the New Philippine Passport Act
  • the Anti-Financial Scamming Act
  • the amendments to the bank secrecy law

Romualdez assured Marcos the House would approve all the 20 measures by the end of September, or three months ahead of the target date.

“We are on track to approve the two remaining measures before the October recess,” he said in a statement.

Congress will be in recess from Sept. 30 to Nov. 5 this year.

Romualdez also committed to Marcos that the House would approve the 2024 budget bill on its third and final reading next week.

Plenary schedule

The 20 priority measures were approved during Ledac’s second meeting in July this year, 18 of which were part of the 42 priority bills approved during the first council meeting in October 2022.

According to Garafil, the 20 bills identified as priority for passage by December include the following:

  • National Employment Action Plan
  • Income Classification of Local Government Units (LGUs)
  • Internet Transaction Act; BOT/PPP (Build, Operate, Transfer/Public Private Partnership) Act
  • Salt Development Industry Act
  • Ease of Paying Taxes, Real Property Evaluation and Assessment Reform Act
  • Magna Carta for Seafarers
  • Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act

The other measures are the following:

  • Waste-to-Energy bill
  • National Disease Prevention Management Authority
  • amendments to the bank secrecy law
  • Medical Reserve Corps
  • Virology Institute of the Philippines
  • E-Governance Act
  • New Philippine Passport Act
  • the National Government Rightsizing Act
  • the National Scamming Act
  • the National Citizens Service Training Program Act
  • the Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP) Pension System Act

Romualdez said the MUP bill was approved on its second reading on Tuesday and committed to the approval of the measure on its third and final reading next week.

Another bill, the proposed Philippine Salt Industry Development Act, is undergoing deliberations in the bicameral conference committee, he noted, adding that the substitute bill consolidating all measures seeking amendments to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act is scheduled for approval in plenary next week.

The enrolled bill on the National Employment Recovery Strategy has been transmitted to Malacañang for the President’s approval, while the enrolled bill on the Automatic Income Classification Act for LGUs is also ready for transmittal, the Speaker said.

Senate backlog

Garafil said that the bills listed in the first Ledac meeting that remained pending in various Senate committees are the following:

  • Medical Reserve Corps
  • Virology Institute of the Philippines
  • E-Governance Act
  • National Government Rightsizing Act
  • Free Legal Assistance for Police and Soldiers
  • apprenticeship law
  • Eastern Visayas Development Authority
  • Negros Island Region
  • Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act
  • National Land Use Act
  • Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers
  • Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery bill
  • Leyte Ecological Industrial Zone
  • Enabling Law for the Natural Gas Industry
  • MUP bill
  • amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001
  • Budget Reform Act
  • Department of Water Resources
  • National Defense Act