THE PHILIPPINE Congress aims to pass 20 priority measures of the Marcos government including easing bank secrecy rules by yearend, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said on Monday, as the Senate and House of Representatives opened their second regular session.

“We stay committed to spurring economic growth, alleviating poverty, augmenting healthcare services and fostering job opportunities for our fellow countrymen,” he said in plenary.

He said the priority bills were approved during a meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) on July 5.

Aside from changes to the Bank Secrecy Act, Congress is also expected to approve changes to the anti-smuggling law, the proposed Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act and a measure seeking to trim the government bureaucracy.

Mr. Romualdez said Congress would also pass measures on public-private partnership, Internet transactions, the ease of paying taxes and the creation of a medical reserve corps.

Lawmakers are also expected to reform the pension system for the military and police and pass legislation on waste to energy and new passports.

The Senate has yet to approve measures seeking to revive the salt industry, mandatory citizens’ military training, the creation of a Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Virology Institute, e-governance and reforms to real property valuation.

Other priority measures cover a national employment action plan, magna carta for Filipino seamen, and income classification of local government units.

Mr. Romualdez said Congress would prioritize the modernization of the country’s infrastructure to boost state partnerships with the private sector.

“This powerful tool enables us to harness the expertise, innovation and resources of the private sector and combine it with the reach, stability and public purpose of government,” he said.

He also cited the need to “engage in discussions and cooperate with the global business community to create an international business environment in our country.”

Lawmakers will also discuss the proposed P5.77-trillion national budget for next year.

“We will improve the bills before we approve them,” Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri told the Senate plenary. “We will purge the bad provisions and replace them with the good.”

He said the Senate is not “a mere processor of policies” originating from the Executive branch. “We also nurture our own.”

Mr. Zubiri said the Senate would prioritize the Waste-to-Energy bill, Ease of Paying Taxes bill, an updated e-Governance law, the proposed Internet Transaction Act and legislative wage hike.

“Every bill carries a price tag which should not be hidden, as they are either paid by the taxes we pay today, or left to our children to settle, whose future has been mortgaged,” he added.

Lawmakers should focus on measures on food security and education, lawyer Antonio Ligon said. He should be in a position to do this as head of the Agriculture department, he added.

Dennis Coronacion, head of the University of Santo Tomas Political Science Department, said the President should also push tax reforms, an enabling law for the natural gas industry and changes to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

The Senate would pass at least four bills before it starts working on the 2023 budget, Senate Majority Leader Joel J. Villanueva told reporters after the President’s second state of the nation address (SONA) to Congress.

“We’ll be able to pass four to five of the important measures that the President is asking Congress to pass,” he said. These are the measures providing for the income classification of local governments, revitalization of the salt industry and the taxpayer’s bill of rights.

Measures that seek to tax internet transactions could also be passed soon, he added.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the Senate ways and means committee, said the ease of paying taxes bill, which Mr. Marcos Jr. mentioned in his speech, would be prioritized.

“We will finish that,” he told reporters after the SONA.

Bills on real property valuation reform, single-use plastics and motor vehicle user’s tax would also be high on the Senate list.

But Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel called measures that seek to impose new taxes “very questionable.”

House Deputy Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. France L. Castro criticized the president for failing to mention wage hikes in his speech. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz and Jan Jiminel Cacdac