THE House of Representatives hopes to avoid Presidential vetoes of bills approved by the 18th Congress by working more closely with the Cabinet and the Senate, according to two senior legislators.

“We are eyeing zero veto for all bills to be approved by the Senate and the House. We hope to avoid any possibility of a Presidential veto by working closely with Cabinet members and Senate officials,” Rep. Martin G. Romualdez of Leyte’s 1st district, the chamber’s majority leader, said in a statement Tuesday.

“We discussed the comments of some Secretaries bago mafinalize ang bill para magkakaintindihan (before bills are finalized to come to an understanding) what deal breakers and red lines both are on both sides (legislators and Malacañang) pag dating sa crucial na bills (when it comes to crucial bills),” Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano said in a chance interview with reporters in Quezon City.

On Monday, members of the House and Senate met with executive branch officials and economic managers at Malacañang.

“The House leaders will exhaust all means possible to make sure that the executive and the legislative departments are in sync with regard to priority and certified bills filed in the 18th Congress. We do not want to put to waste all the money, time and effort which are normally spent in passing bills,” Mr. Romualdez said.

Aside from the 2020 national budget, among the agreed priorities of the officials during the meeting are the proposed increase in excise tax on alcohol products, amendments to the 82-year-old Commonwealth Act No. 146, or the Public Service Act, establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentive Rationalization Act, among others.

During the 17th Congress, President Rodrigo R. Duterte vetoed parts of the 2018 General Appropriations Act; an act declaring Dec. 9 as a special working holiday; a measure strengthening the Philippine Coconut Authority; a bill creating the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund; a measure banning corporal punishment on children; a bill strengthening the Office of the Solicitor General; a measure granting survivorship benefits to children of deceased retired members of the Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Elections, and Office of the Ombudsman; and a bill creating a regional investment and infrastructure coordinating hub in Central Luzon.

In February, Mr. Duterte said after vetoing the anti-corporal child punishment bill that he does not agree with the “overly sweeping condemnation” of such disciplinary measures.

In the same month, the President also objected to the Coconut Levy fund measure, citing the need for stronger safeguards in the fund’s disbursal.

Last month, Mr. Duterte also vetoed the Security of Tenure bill noting that the enrolled bill “unduly broadens” the scope of labor-only contracting, which is already banned by law.

“We were informed by Palace officials that the President was not against the approval of most of the bills. The Executive department has issues only with certain provisions which Congress could have accommodated with proper representation and coordination,” Mr. Romualdez said.

The Majority leader noted that the Congressional Planning and Budget Office estimates that at least P3 million are being spent for the approval of any bill until third reading.

“We aim to work closely also with the PLLO (Presidential Legislative Liaison Office) so that they can alert us (on) certain provisions of the bills that may need thorough discussion with Cabinet members concerned,” Mr. Romualdez added.

In July, the President renewed his call for charter change after naming Mr. Cayetano as his candidate for the Speakership.

When asked if amending the Constitution is still a priority, Mr. Romualdez said in a press briefing: “Never say die, this measure has to be initiated somehow. My personal opinion is that until that matter is brought up, gains the proper support and momentum. For the time being, it is not the top priority.”

He added, “Maybe it’s a priority, but it is not top priority at this point.” — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras