23 more priority measures bared

Published by rudy Date posted on July 21, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. yesterday bared an additional list of 23 priority measures for the House of Representatives during its second regular session that opens on Monday.

Belmonte said the measures would cover the areas of good governance, agriculture, human rights, cultural communities, land administration and ecology, education and anti-terror policies.

“We will hit the ground prepared when Congress opens its Second Regular Session following the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte said the additional list of proposed policy reforms – many of which are in their advanced stages – is apart from the original 23 bills identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) as priorities of President Aquino.

“The House will not lose sight of the remaining LEDAC and the President’s priorities mentioned during the first SONA. In fact, many of them would soon be calendared for plenary consideration,” he said.

Of the 23 LEDAC measures, four bills and one joint resolution were already signed into law by the President. Of the 84 original House priorities, 15 have been approved on third reading and are now awaiting Senate action.

The additional priorities include the Terrorist Financing Suppression Act of 2010; amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; reorganizing the Philippine Statistical System; strengthening the Animal Industry and Veterinary Quarantine Services and providing for the modernization of the state weather bureau.

Other priority measures include the elimination of Gender Bias on Adultery and Concubinage Act; providing for a Maritime Code of the Philippines; amending Republic Act 7877, or the “Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995; amending the Women’s Higher Education Act; providing for a nationwide Scholarship Program for Indigenous Peoples; expanding the coverage of the Science and Technology Scholarship Program; extending the charter of the Land Bank of the Philippines; Land Management Bureau Survey of Cadastral Lots in the entire Country; providing for the delineation of the specific forest limits of public domain; banning asbestos and asbestos-containing products; establishing number portability for mobile telephone service; regulating the placement of billboards; Telecommunications Accessibility Act; Anti-Prostitution Act 2011; prohibiting the use of the words “Muslim” and “Christian” in mass media; debts-for-MDGs swap; creating a Center for Studies on Indigenous Cultural Communities; and Filipino Volunteerism in National-Building Act.

From the original LEDAC/President’s honor list, the following, among others, have been approved by the committees to which they were referred, including establishing the archipelagic sea lanes, prescribing rights of foreign ships; providing a definite targeting strategy in identifying the poor by amending RA 7875; providing mandatory healthcare coverage; amending the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act; the Whistle Blowers Protection Act; and the National Land Use and Management Act of the Philippines.

The creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the measure instituting a Land Administration Reform Act are both pending with the Committee on Appropriations for its comments on their respective funding provisions.

Sectors, on the other hand, called on President Aquino to make a firm statement in favor of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in his SONA on Monday.

“We are expecting the President to mention this (RH Bill) in his SONA,” said former party list group Akbayan representative Risa Hontiveros.

“I hope he will issue a strong message to our lawmakers (regarding the bill),” she said.

Hontiveros and Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino asked the President to call on Congress to continue the plenary debates on the controversial bill.

“Even if economic issues are the priority of the leadership, I hope the plenary debates on the RH bill will continue,” Palatino said.

Elizabeth Angsioco, executive director of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, said Aquino must include the controversial bill in his SONA so that Congress will know his stand on the issue and move to vote on the bill.

“We need this one big push from the President,” she said.

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged all lawmakers to attend the SONA on Monday.

When asked if those opposing the RH bill would have a better chance of blocking the passage of the bill if they would attend the session, CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) chairman.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the lawmakers, regardless of their stand on the RH, should perform their mandated duties to the people and attend the opening session.

He said the lawmakers should always report for work since they are government officials receiving their salaries from the people.

Pabillo noted nearly half of the 285 members of the House chalked up perfect attendance during the first regular session of the 15th Congress.

“Only half of them attended? That is not good because all of them were paid (with the Filipino people’s taxes) to attend the session. It is their job to pass bills so they should have 100 percent attendance,” he said. – Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan, Reinir Padua, Philippine Star

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