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Executive-legislative coordination starts

Posted on February 28, 2011

MALACAÑANG is scheduled to present its priority bills to leaders of Congress in the Aquino administration’s first Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting today.

Palace officials said over the weekend that they have drawn up a final list of 23 priority measures, an expansion from the 17 identified by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. last Feb. 6, in order to include those cited by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III during his State of the Nation Address in July 2010.

The 23 priorities measures have drafts that will be presented to lawmakers in the meeting today, Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail D. Valte said via text.

"All the 23 proposals went through benchmarking, goal-setting and prioritization process during various Cabinet workshops and the succeeding meetings of the Cabinet clusters," Mr. Ochoa said in a statement on Sunday.

Congress leaders interviewed over the weekend said they were open to Malacañang’s proposal, but were noncommittal on approval.

"Any effort on the part of the Executive to push a particular measure, we will accept that and see what we can do if we agree," Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said in an interview.

"And if we need to modify, then we will modify."

Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. (4th district, Quezon City) said in a separate phone interview that his chamber "will include the Palace’s list" in its priority agenda that "hopefully will be tackled in plenary before the year ends."

Mr. Enrile, however, would not commit to a time table. "How long it will take to pass them is something else. It depends on the nature and character of the legislation," he said. "As far as importance and attention concerned, we will consider them important."

Mr. Belmonte said "we will include them in our priorities," but would not say how long it would take to approve them either.

Still, he hinted that the process may be smoother in his chamber, saying "we are still waiting for the draft bills from the Palace, but we have already filed our version of the bills that are on the Palace list."

Malacañang expects a "consensus between leaders of the Executive branch and Congress on measures that can be taken up in their respective chambers," Ms. Valte said in a radio interview on Sunday.

The six bills added to the original Palace line-up were:

  • a proposed National Land Use Act that will ensure equitable access to resources and sustainable development;

  • an anti-trust measure which seeks to provide a level business playing field by banning and penalizing unfair trade practices;

  • strengthening the witness protection, security and benefit program;

  • better protection for whistle-blowers;

  • updating the 1935 National Defense Act of the Philippines to address current security issues; and

  • amending the government procurement law to support the public-private partnership program.

Others earlier listed by Malacañang were a fiscal responsibility bill requiring legislators to approve a revenue-generating measure to match every revenue-eroding law; rationalizing fiscal incentives; streamlining compensation at state-owned firms; extending the primary to secondary school term to 12 years (K+12); amending the build-operate-transfer law to ensure uniformity in the treatment of investors and transparency in the award of contracts; revising the Electric Power Industry Reform Act to address continued power sector inefficiency; including terrorist financing in the Anti-Money Laundering Act; reorganizing the National Food Authority and a water utilities reform bill.

Rounding up the list are the proposed establishment of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; creation of the Land Administration Authority; amending the Labor Code to ban night work for women; changing the National Health Insurance Act to expand basic health care coverage to more of the poor; deferring the Aug. 8 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) election and synchronizing this with national and local polls scheduled for 2013; prescribing the rights and obligations of foreign vessels passing through the country’s archipelagic sea lanes; defining the country’s maritime zones to provide clear territorial limits; and reviving the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization program that ended in February 2010.

Mr. Enrile said he will be accompanied by Senator Franklin M. Drilon, chairman of the finance committee, and Senator Ralph G. Recto, chairman of the committee on ways and means.

For the House, Mr. Belmonte said those who will attend are: Deputy Speakers Lorenzo R. Tañada III (4th district, Quezon), Jesus Crispin C. Remulla (7th district, Cavite), Maria Isabella G. Climaco (1st district, Zamboanga City), Raul A. Daza (1st district, Northern Samar), Arnulfo P. Fuentebella (4th district, Camarines Sur) and Pablo P. Garcia (2nd district, Cebu); Majority Leader Neptali M. Gonzales II (Mandaluyong); Minority Leader Edcel C. Lagman (1st district, Albay); and appropriations committee chairman Joseph Emilio A. Abaya (1st district, Cavite). -- N. M. Gonzales, J. P. D. Poblete and A. M. G. Roa