By Ben Rosario
Notwithstanding the rich harvest of legislative measures enacted into law, members of the House of Representatives remain discontented and are eyeing the biggest legislative catch which is to deliver a new Constitution before the 17th Congress closes session next year.
Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and the rest of the House leadership have not given up hopes of revising the Charter and putting in place a federal government system.
However, Garcia said the House leadership will still guarantee that all legislative measures and the Charter change bid will pass through regular processes and that consultations among all House members will continue.
Garcia disclosed that in the second session of the 17th Congress, the Lower House was able to process 2,929 bills within 183 session days, chalking an average of 16 proposals per session day.
A total of 133 bills were approved into law by President Rodrigo Duterte within the said period with 38 of these measures providing for national implementation.
“Still pending consideration by the bicameral conference committee are 8 national bills and 8 local bills, or a total of 16 measures,” Garcia said.
The administration lawmaker said that within the 183 session days, the Lower House was able to pass on third and final reading a total 417 legislative proposals, with 160 of these categorized as national bills.
Among the most significant measures that have been enacted into law during the period include the following:
Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act – An estimated 1.3 million Filipino
students would benefit from this law for this coming school year as the government is all set to implement the law. The free education law benefits not only those taking college degree courses but also students taking vocational-technical education in institutions accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
- Free Irrigation Services Act – Under this new law, farmers tilling eight hectares and below are exempt from paying irrigation fees to the National Irrigation Authority, other state agencies and irrigators’ associations. However, those with more than eight hectares, including corporate farms, will continue paying irrigation fees.
- An Act Strengthening the “Anti-Hospital Deposit Law” – This measure increased the penalties against hospitals or clinics that refuse to treat patients in emergency or serious cases unless they could provide a certain amount as deposit.
- Ease of Doing Business Act – This law prescribes a uniform guideline for the processing of business documents. The law requires government agencies to act on applications within three days for simple transactions, seven days for complex ones, and 20 days for highly technical ones.
- Act Extending the Validity of Philippine Passports — Filipino passport holders can use their travel documents for up to 10 years;
- Act Extending the Validity Period of Drivers’ Licenses — Motorists can now use their license for five years instead of the previous three years;
- Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) – This measure reduced personal income taxes while raising duties on fuel, cars, coal and sugar-sweetened drinks.
The revenues generated by the new tax law are meant to help fund the government’s P8 trillion infrastructure program, also known as the “Build, Build, Build” program.