SENATE PRESIDENT Vicente C. Sotto III on Thursday listed the priority measures that the chamber is seeking to pass on third and final reading, aside from the proposed 2019 national budget, when it resumes session next week.
At the Kapihan sa Senado media forum, Mr. Sotto said the Senate’s list of priority bills, which he noted will be finalized on Monday, included the following measures:
• Proposed amendments to the Human Security Act, pending in the committee on public order and dangerous drugs
• The medical scholarship bill, pending in the committee on health
• Proposed amendments to the Public Service Act, pending on second reading
• The proposed Mindanao Railways Authority measure, pending in the committee on government corporations and public enterprises
• Unified uniformed personnel retirement benefits and pension Reform Act, pending in the committee on corporations and public enterprises
• The budget reform bill, pending on second reading
• The rightsizing the national government bill, pending on second reading
• The value for money procurement bill, pending at the committee on finance
• The traffic and congestion crisis bill, pending on second reading
• The salary standardization bill, pending on second reading
Mr. Sotto also cited the Senate’s priority measures among those whose bicameral conference committee reports were ratified by both chambers of Congress last year, such as the tax amnesty bill, the universal health care bill, the coconut levy bill, and amendments to the fair elections act.
The Senate leader noted that Malacañang has its own “wish-list” of priority bills as well, which he said came from the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) technical working group.
This list includes the Allowable Recoverable Systems Loss bill, the Security of Tenure bill, amendments to the Public Services Act, the National Transport Act, federalism, the rightsizing the national government bill, the budget reform bill, and the national land use bill.
“We’re trying to be practical to say that this is what we can pass within the next two or three weeks. But hopefully we can fit it all in since we have a good record of what we have passed from the previous year,” Mr. Sotto said.
“I’ll be very honest about it. In the list that we mentioned, if we’re able to pass more than 50% of these then, we will be very glad and we’ll be very happy in the performance of the 17th Congress,” he added.
Asked if the Senate will also prioritize the bill increasing tobacco and alcohol taxes after President Rodrigo R. Duterte agreed to certify it as urgent, Mr. Sotto said, “if he (referring to Mr. Duterte) is going to certify it as urgent, then I’m sure the Senate committee handling it ill act on it. I just hope that we have enough time to be able to tackle it.”
The bill, which seeks to impose a P60 tax per pack of tobacco, is being eyed as among the measures to help boost funding for the expected roll-out of the government’s universal health care program this year.
Asked for comment, Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said the committee on ways and means, which he chairs, will “do its best” to push for the passage of the bill.
“We’ll do our best to push it forward under the circumstances. I’m sure the leadership of the Senate will also see what can be done in the few remaining weeks of congressional sessions,” he said in a text message to BusinessWorld.
Congress is set to resume session on Monday, Jan. 14 with only four weeks before it adjourns on Feb. 8. — Camille A. Aguinaldo