House pushes 8 priority bills
MANILA, Philippines —With nine session days left before Congress adjourns on Feb. 5, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Sunday urged the Senate to pass at least eight priority bills that have already been approved by the House of Representatives.
“We urge the Senate to expedite the deliberations and approval of these measures so we can pass them into law before the campaign period,” he said in a statement.
“We only have three weeks, or nine session days, to finish some priority measures before we adjourn for the election period,” he added.
Velasco said the key bills include the proposed Internet Transactions Act, Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises Act (Guide); the bills creating the Medical Reserve Corps, Philippine Virology Institute and Center for Disease Prevention and Control; hiring of mental health professionals in basic education; increasing social pension of indigent senior citizens; and strengthening data privacy protection.
Internet transactions law
The proposed Internet Transactions Act seeks to regulate internet transactions and services through the creation of an Electronic Commerce Bureau and promote the development of the country’s e-commerce infrastructure via an industry-led eCommerce Trustmark.
No new taxes or fees were proposed in the measure.
Under the bill, online e-commerce platforms, such as Lazada, Shopee and Zalora, will be held solidarily liable with their merchants for failing to prevent scams, fail to publish the details of merchants or fail to examine goods related to food, drugs, cosmetics, among others.
The proposed law makes it illegal to cancel orders for food or groceries that have already been paid by or are already in the possession of delivery services. It will also be illegal to “unreasonably shame, demean, embarrass, or humiliate ride hailing service partners.”
A consumer, however, may cancel an order if the delivery of ordered food or grocery items was delayed for at least an hour from the expected time of arrival due to the fault or negligence of the delivery service.
Other priority measures
The Guide Act, the Medical Reserves Corps Act, and the creation of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control were among the bills identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.
The proposed charters of the Virology Institute of the Philippines Act and the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control were borne of issues that emerged during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate versions of the two bills are currently being deliberated in the upper chamber through the technical working group under the committee on health and the committee on science and technology.
The Office of the Speaker originally mentioned 12 priority bills in its statement, but did not identify the four other already-passed “priority” bills or their significance to taxpayers.
Velasco, however, mentioned that the House was expected to pass four other measures when it resumes session on Monday.
These include the proposed Rural Financial Inclusion and Literacy Act, Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers and the National Housing Development Act, as well as the bill assigning health workers in every barangay across the country.
He said the chamber would also pass a proposal to upgrade and create certain positions in the field offices of the Commission on Elections.
When Congress resumes session on Monday after a holiday break since Dec. 17, Velasco said only 20 percent of House workers would be allowed to report for work, adding that an antigen test would also be required.
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