Belmonte: House will pass FOI during my term
MANILA, Philippines–Speaker Feliciano Belmonte on Tuesday said he was confident that the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill will be passed by the House of Representatives before his term ends.
“FOI continues to be a contentious thing. But I am confident that…while I am Speaker ay makakapasa rin (while I am Speaker it will be approved by the House of Representatives),” he said in an interview over Inquirer Radio 990AM.
The passage of a Freedom of Information Act has long been anticipated in the Philippines, with the first version filed around 22 years ago.
Lawmakers have been at odds with media and civil society groups on the contents of the bill or on whether there is a need for such at all, resulting in a continuous delay of its passage.
No to emergency powers
Belmonte also said that he has urged the Committee on Energy to conduct hearings on the issues faced by the power industry once session resumes.
He acknowledged that many are concerned and mad at the proposed power rate increase amid the series of calamities that hit the country.
The House Speaker said they will look into the deregulation of the sector through the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), the contingency plan of the generation and distribution utilities such as the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), and issues of competition and collusion among the industry players.
Asked if he agreed that President Benigno Aquino III should be given emergency powers, he said, “100 percent I am against it.”
“This is my personal view on it. But as Speaker, as a head of the House bakit bibigyan (kung) hindi naman nanghihingi,” he added.
(This is my personal view on it. But as speaker, as head of the House, why give emergency powers when it is not being asked for.)
Earlier, Aquino made it clear that he never asked for emergency powers from the legislative, saying the situation does not merit such.
Belmonte said that even if the President asked them, it would not be a “capricious request” and they will still have to look into it.
“Hindi rin ako pabor na ibigay mo lang. Nahirapan tayo ngayon…(but) we should try to operate within the ample powers of the Executive,” he said.
(I am also not in favor of just giving emergency powers. We are having a hard time now…but we should try to operate within the ample power of the Executive.)
Asked what he thinks of the latest Pulse Asia survey that reported an increase in his approval and trust ratings, he said it probably helps that people know that he does not have any ambitions to run for president or vice president.
He said people judge him on what he does instead of why they think he is doing it.
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