34 legislative priorities, COVID-19 vaccines high on House agenda — Speaker Velasco

Published January 17, 2021, 6:48 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

The COVID-19 vaccine-related measures and the approval of more than 30 legislative priorities, including a bill seeking additional benefits for solo parents, are high on the agenda of the House of Representatives, as  Congress buckles down to work on Monday. 

The Lower Chamber is expected to expedite the passage of its 34 priority measures. These include House Bill Nos. 8316 and 8317, which seek to grant President Duterte the power to suspend the scheduled increases in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS) “in times of national emergencies.”

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco
(Lord Allan Velasco’s Office / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The twin measures were principally authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

House Bill No. 8097 or the Additional Benefits for Solo Parents is due to be approved on third and final reading by the chamber.

The House  identified 47 legislative priorities, 13 of which were approved  on third and final reading.

These include the measures mentioned by President Duterte in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year.

These were the proposed Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer or FIST Act, Bureau of Fire Protection Modernization Act, Internet Transaction Act and Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act.

Meanwhile, among the priority measures that are scheduled for committee deliberations and approval are the proposed Magna Carta of Barangays; National Housing Development Act; Department of Water Resources and Services; death penalty for plunder, heinous crimes related to drugs; rightsizing of the national government; and the Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, principally authored by Velasco, which seeks to amend the economic  provisions of the 1987 Constitution. 

As directed by Velasco, the House Committee on Health, chaired by  Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan will look into the “government’s National COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap and the efficacy of the life-saving shots to be administered in the country.”

“Our goal is to make sure that every Filipino will have access to safe and effective vaccine, which is currently the best way for us to beat the virus and move forward,” Velasco said in a statement. 

Under the 2021 General Appropriations Act signed by President Duterte last December 28, P72.5 billion was earmarked for the purchase, storage, transportation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and another P2 billion was allocated  for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the country’s health workers. 

Tan said the hearing is aimed at ensuring that there will be  “just, fair and equal” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Expected to attend the hearing are Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.

Velasco assured the public that the leadership would continuously look after the safety of the chamber’s employees, saying that keeping the legislative mill grinding is “entirely dependent on the safety of our employees from the virus.”

He noted that the second round of  COVID-19 mass testing is being conducted in the House. In November last year, the first-ever mass testing of House members and employees was conducted in the chamber.