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Congress to tackle priorities as sessions resume

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PHILSTAR

THE Senate and House of Representatives will resume sessions on Monday after the holiday break, with both houses of Congress expected to prioritize the creation of several agencies including a Department of Disaster Resilience.

The House would also try to pass twin bills seeking to create a Department of Water Resources and Department of Filipinos Overseas, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said in a statement on Sunday.

“The Speaker made a clear instruction to pass these bills,” said Mr. Romualdez, who is also the majority leader. “No less than President Rodrigo R. Duterte himself called on Congress to work on these measures during his fourth State of the Nation Address last July.”

The House has started debates on the proposed Department of Filipinos Overseas, and will start deliberating on the other two agencies when sessions resume this month.

The Senate, meanwhile, would prioritize the creation of the local disaster agency, as well as changes to the Anti-Terrorist Act, President Vicente C. Sotto III told reporters in a group message on Sunday.

The law only penalizes four acts of terrorism — the commission of the actual crime, conspiracy to commit terrorism, being an accomplice and an accessory.




The Senate bill seeks to expand this, including in its coverage any attacks that cause death or serious injury, extensive damage to property, as well as the manufacture, possession and supply of weapons.

Mr. Sotto also said the chamber would prioritize Senate Bill 1092 or the “Teaching Supplies Allowance Act,” which will allot P5,000 per teacher yearly for the purchase of chalks, erasers, forms and other classroom supplies.

Both bills have been endorsed by separate Senate committees and are awaiting approval on second reading.

Mr. Sotto also cited measures for a Local Government Unit Transportation Act, Comprehensive Values Education Act and a plan to increase spending by political parties during elections.

The first bill will expand local governments’ power over local public transportation, empowering them to develop their own mass transportation systems.

There’s also a proposal to increase spending by election candidates to P50 from P10 per voter, and expenses of political parties to P30 from P5 per voter. Another bill will integrate values education in the K to 12 curriculum.

Meanwhile, a congressman said the House would also prioritize changes to the Consumer Act and Price Act amid “unfair” price increases related to the eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas province.

“Profiteers are illegally taking advantage of the environmental conditions in Batangas and the surrounding areas to make unfair price increases,” Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie T. Gatchalian said in a statement.

“We are appealing to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to avoid profiteering. Let us not add to the already heavy burden of those affected by the Taal Volcano eruption” said the congressman, who also heads the trade and industry committee.

Mr. Gatchalian also said a law prohibiting donations of infant milk and similar goods should be seriously reconsidered.

About 21,000 children living within the 14-kilometer danger zone of Taal have been evacuated, Mr. Gatchalian said, noting that hundreds of infants in evacuation centers need milk and other substitute formulas. “We should be able to make use of them especially if there are those willing to donate.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Genshen L. Espedido









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