House resumes session after month-long break
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives resumed on Monday afternoon its session following a one month-break after passing the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the lower chamber is ready to pass a number of bills and to ratify the national budget, especially as Congress only has four weeks left in session before it adjourns on December 19 for a month-long Christmas break.
Velasco said that making sure that President Rodrigo Duterte will be able to sign the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) into law before the year ends remains the top priority of the House.
“We are looking forward to the bicameral conference on the 2021 GAB and hopefully, we will be able to ratify the bicam report before Congress adjourns for the holidays,” Velasco said in a statement.
Several measures are also in the lower chamber’s priority list such as the bill strengthening Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), the proposed Internet Transactions Act, and the proposed Magna Carta of Barangay Workers.
Velasco added that the proposed Coconut Levy Fund; National Land Use Act; Rightsizing the National Government Act; Right to Adequate Food, Anti-Ethnic, Racial and Religious Discrimination Act; and the On-Site, In-City, Near City Local Government Resettlement Program are also considered as priority measures in the House.
Bills seeking to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic are also among the priorities of the House, said the Speaker.
“All these economic measures would go hand in hand with bills that will address systemic corruption in government,” Velasco said.
Right before the House took a break in October, the lower chamber passed the proposed 2021 national budget which was earlier stalled by the speakership row between Velasco and former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Health protocols in place
Several health protocols are also in place for lawmakers, employees, and guests inside the Batasan Complex in Quezon City such as the implementation of a hybrid set-up for the session.
Under this set-up, some lawmakers are physically present in the plenary hall while others may opt to attend through videoconferencing to observe social distancing. They are still allowed to register their attendance, participate and vote on any matter presented to the body through telecommunications or online messaging and email using their pre-registered contact numbers and email addresses duly verified by the Secretary General.
House Secretary General Jocelia Bighani Sipin said all members and employees reporting for work on Monday are required to undergo the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for COVID-19.
Visitors are also required to undergo COVID-19 antigen testing before they can be granted access to the offices inside the complex.
All those entering the House need to wear masks and face shields, pass through thermal scanners and disinfection machines, and observe physical distancing at all times.
House members, employees and guests are likewise required to submit an accomplished health declaration form to inform the chamber of their health status before being allowed to enter its premises.
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