Congress urged to pass 20 other priority bills, including Bayanihan 2
The proposed Bayanihan 2 law and the return of the death penalty for drug-related offenses are among the 21 priority bills endorsed by President Duterte to the joint session of Congress when he delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday.
The President has called for the swift passage of these administration measures, particularly the stimulus bill needed to strengthen the government’s pandemic response as well as facilitate the country’s economic recovery.
The annual address of the President also covered issues about the coronavirus response, concerns about the oligarchy, the West Philippine Sea issue, the alleged “lousy” telecommunication services, and government projects aimed at helping sectors affected by the health crisis.
In his remarks that lasted for more than an hour, Duterte said he appreciated Congress’s support for the passage of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and will appreciate if it also approves the second bill, the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2.
“This health emergency stretched the government’s resources to its limits,” said Duterte, who was given additional powers to effectively contain the coronavirus health emergency under the first Bayanihan law that expired last month.
“I hope that we can get some or the same treatment of clarity, purpose, and the fastness to support the passage of the Bayanihan [to Recover as One Act], which will supplement funds for recovery and response against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
The proposed Bayanihan 2 measure includes P140 billion for various programs to improve healthcare resources as well as provide support for workers and industries get back on their feet.
In his speech, Duterte made a pitch anew for the fast approval of a bill reviving death penalty by lethal injection for crimes specified under Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002.
Duterte, who waged a controversial war on drugs marred by alleged human rights concerns, said capital punishment would help deter illegal drug trade which he claimed has been destroying families in the country. He noted that the operations by drug syndicates are being “played inside the national penitentiaries.”
“This law will not only help us deter criminality, but also save our children from the dangers posed by the illegal and dangerous drugs,” he said.
To facilitate the nation’s economic recovery, Duterte also asked Congress to hasten the passage of two reform measures namely the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act.
He said the CREATE bill would reduce the corporate income levy from the current 30 to 25 percent and give the government flexibility to grant a combination of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, among others.
The FIST bill, on the other hand, will set up mechanisms allowing banks and other financial institutions to dispose of and transfer non-performing assets and loans to asset management companies similar to Special Purpose Vehicles.
On strengthening the country’s health care resources, the President said he expects the full support of Congress on three bills related on advanced nursing education, formation of medical reserved corps, and well as creation a national disease prevention authority.
“COVID-19 will not only be the last pandemic. We need to create national disease prevention and management authority to better respond to future outbreak,” he said.
OFW, housing concerns
Duterte also asked Congress to pass a bill creating the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers to address their needs and concerns.
He also backed the passage of three housing-related bills to help Filipinos achieve their dream for a safe, decent and affordable shelter.
“The housing market remains inaccessible to most of our countrymen. I renew my call to Congress to pass the national housing development bill and the rental housing subsidy bill. These will enable all Filipinos regardless social status to live in decent homes where the families can live meaningful lives,” he said.
He also asked Congress to amend the continuing professional development (CPD) law. “In this time of great pandemic and forthcoming reconstruction requiring professionals to undergo seminars is burdensome and not realistic. This must end,” he said.
He also backed the passage of a bill creating the Boracay Island Development Authority to ensure its sustainable protection.
“Boracay is doing well because of its scenery… We have seen remarkable emergence of the island back to its former glory. I want this sustained,” he said.
Other priority bills
The bills creating the department of disaster resilience, establishment of evacuation centers in every city and municipality, and implementing the national land use have also been endorsed by the President.
“Equally important is the establishment of evacuation centers in every city, province and municipality throughout the country. We must act [now] before another major disaster shakes [us] into action,” he said.
Duterte also urged lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the bill on unified system for separation, retirement and pension for military and uniformed personnel without diminishing the benefits that they are entitled under existing laws.
“There is a need to adjust the pension system which will be applicable only to newly-hired uniformed personnel so as not to cause a ballooning effect against the budget of the military in the years to come and yet maintain the pension benefits of those already in service under the present law. This issue needs a solution now,” he said.
Other priority bills mentioned by the President are the establishment of the coconut levy trust fund, rural agricultural, and fisheries development financing system, and the proposed internet transaction act, modernizing the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Immigration.