By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Sunday urged Malacañang to choose what Senate proposals to officially back “so we can start the legislative year with a common agenda.”
Angara made the call as the Senate gears for the opening of the 18th Congress starting with the filing of priority measures on Monday, July 1.
Angara said “policy-making has always been a two-way street, with bills emanating from both the executive branch and the legislature, and these branches improving on each other’s proposals.”
“Hindi rin importante kung galing ang proposal sa Majority or sa Minority (It’s not important whether the proposal came from the Majority or Minority). Authorship is secondary. What we should be looking for are the merits, especially on measures of the non-political kind. Monopoly of ideas leads to bad legislation,” he explained.
Angara said that once a common legislative-executive agenda is forged, what can be rolled out first are the non-contentious measures. “Let’s begin with the easy ones, the so-called low-hanging fruits, while we subject complicated measures to more study, debate and improvement,” the lawmaker suggested.
For his part, Angara said he will concentrate on filing measures that would boost social protection, improve access to and quality of education, better health care, guarantee food security, and create economic and job opportunities .
“Some of these are legacy measures, a continuation of what my father initiated in his four terms in the Senate. Ito yung mga ‘Alagang Angara’ laws (These are the ‘Alagang Angara’ laws),“ he said.
The first 10 bills he will file in the Senate this week include upgrading the Salary Grade of public school teachers from 11 to 19; a bill granting discounts on books, health care, school supplies, and some school fees to poor students in all school levels, including those in technical-vocational institutions; and a bill doubling the social pension of destitute senior citizens from P6,000 to P12,000 a year.
Angara said he would also file two Magna Carta bills—one for Filipino seafarers, and the other for barangay workers.
Angara also said he would file a resolution seeking probe into the recent reported anomalies in government offices, particularly in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth.
“At a time when we are looking for ways to fund the Universal Health Care Law, we cannot allow leakages to continue. Whatever funds we infuse might be lost to the money hemorrhage caused by scams,” he pointed out.
Kiko to push coco levy bill
Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, on the other hand, said he would open the 18th Congress by filing measures focusing on agriculture, environment, and civil service.
Pangilinan said among the measures he would file is the much-delayed Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Bill or the proposed Coco Levy Act.
The opposition lawmaker said he hopes that after President Duterte vetoed its passage in the 17th Congress, the Coco Levy Act would finally push through in the 18th Congress.
“Our coconut farmers have been waiting for this for over 40 years. The longer they are not able to access the fund, the longer they live in poverty,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan also said he would file measures that call for the establishment of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) and the Department of Disaster and Emergency Management (DEM).
“These twin measures will ensure that the affected sectors will be given sufficient funding, the DFAR especially following the incident at Recto Bank. We need to make sure that this will not happen again, and that all our marine and aquatic resources are cared for, protected, and utilized sustainably,” Pangilinan stressed.
“We currently rank as the third most disaster-prone country in the world. With the escalation of the effects of climate crisis, we need to escalate our measures so that we are prepared for whatever nature will bring. We do not want another Ondoy. We do not want another Yolanda,” he further said.