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Palace presents priorities

Posted on March 01, 2011

A FINAL LIST of 23 priority measures was presented yesterday by Malacañang to the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), meeting for the first time under the Aquino administration.

Congress leaders pledged approval of the list, which Palace officials said tackled human development, economic progress, infrastructure development, good governance as well as enhancement of national sovereignty and rule of law.

"At the House [of Representatives at least half [of Malacañang’s priorities] are in advanced stages of discussion," House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. said in a briefing after the meeting.

Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, meanwhile, said: "we have to support the President, see to it that the legislative program ... will be tackled by the Senate, the sooner the better."

The final priority list -- culled from an initial list of 32 identified in January by Cabinet officials -- is a bit lengthier than the 17 measures identified last month by Malacañang. It comprises:

• the fiscal responsibility bill mandating legislators to pass counterpart revenue-generating provisions for every loss-causing law;
• the rationalization of fiscal incentives offered investors;
• an anti-trust measure;
• a National Land Use Act that will ensure equitable access to resources and sustainable development;
• amendments to the government procurement law to support the public-private partnership program;
• amendments to the build-operate-transfer law to ensure uniformity in the treatment of investors and transparency in the award of contracts;
• amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act to address continued power sector inefficiency;
• amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act;
• amendments to the National Health Insurance Act to expand basic health care coverage to more of the poor;
• amendments to Labor Code provisions preventing night work for women;
• reorganization of the National Food Authority;
• creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development;
• creation of the Land Administration Authority;
• a water utilities reform bill;
• a measure streamlining perks at state-owned firms;
• strengthening of the witness protection, security and benefit program;
• better protection for whistle-blowers;
• changes to the 1935 National Defense Act to address current security issues;
• a measure prescribing the rights and obligations of foreign vessels passing through the country’s sea lanes;
• defining the country’s maritime zones to provide clear territorial limits;
• a revival of the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program that ended in February 2010;
• extension of the basic education term to 12 years; and
• the postponement of this year’s Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections and synchronizing this with the 2013 national and local polls.

Measures that have already hurdled the committee level at the House are those extending the basic education term, the postponement of the ARMM elections, and changes to the Labor Code and perks at state-owned firms.

Mr. Belmonte said the LEDAC had discussed all but one of the priority measures during the five-hour meeting. The fiscal responsibility bill, he said, would have required more time than was available. The LEDAC was also forced to defer discussion of the 2011-2016 Medium Term Philippine Development Plan.

President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, asked what bills he wanted Congress to pass before the end of its first regular session on June 9, cited the deferment of the ARMM polls.

Yesterday’s LEDAC meeting -- originally scheduled for end-January but moved as the Palace worked to trim the priority list -- marked the first time in over a year that the consultative and advisory body was convened.

Republic Act 7640, signed by then President Fidel V. Ramos signed into law in 1992 states that the body should meet at least once every quarter. The last LEDAC event, according to state planners, was on Oct. 15, 2009.

The LEDAC is chaired by the President with the Vice-President as vice-chairman. The Senate President, Speaker of the House, seven Cabinet secretaries, three other senators and three other congressmen who deal with socioeconomic issues are members. In principle, the council also includes a representative each from the local government, private sector and youth sector. -- AMGR