Despite Omicron threat, Senate will resume sessions on Monday

Published January 16, 2022, 2:01 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

The Senate will resume sessions on Monday, January 17, and tackle more than 30 measures that are either pending for approval on third and final reading, for interpellation and for sponsorship.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said that among the priority measures that the Upper Chamber has lined up for the three-week sessions before the campaign period for the May 2022 elections starts include Senate Bill No. 2470, which seeks to impose a higher penalty for violators of the government’s mandatory quarantine protocols and the bill that seeks funding for the rehabilitation and relief efforts for Typhoon Odette victims.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier put the Senate building under “total closure” from Jan. 10 to Jan. 16 due to the high number of COVID-19 infections within its premises.

The Upper Chamber will allow for a limited number of senators and secretariat personnel to be physically present within the premises while the rest shall attend through online or videoconferencing.

Other measures up for approval on third and final reading include Senate Bill No. 2302 which seeks to protect individuals engaged in food, grocery and pharmacy delivery services, Senate Bill No. 255 which exempts the conversion of a municipality into a compent city from the population and land area requirements and Senate Bill No. 1241 or the bill institutionalizing the establishment of ‘Timbangan ng Bayan’ Centers in public and private markets nationwide.

The Senate is also set to tackle Senate Bill No 1810 or the proposed law providing protection to freelancers; Senate Bill No. 1834 or the proposed Digital Workforce Competitiveness bill; Senate Bill No. 2464 or the bill establishing registry of professionals and skilled workforce in barangays; Senate Bill No. 2467 or the bill enhancing the protection and benefits of media and entertainment workers.

The Upper Chamber is also set to prioritize deliberations on Senate Bill No. 2421 or the proposed law granting COVID-19 benefits and allowances to public and private health workers during the state of public health emergency; Senate Bill No. 2422 which seeks to create a vaccine and health passport program, amending Republic Act No. 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.

Other measures that the Senate intends to take up in the next three weeks include the bill that seeks to promote the rights and provide greater protection to abandoned children with unknown parents (Senate Bill No 2233); the bill that mandates the implementation of the parent effectiveness service program to strengthen parental involvement in children’s development and learning (Senate Bill No. 2399).

The Senate will also set to take up Senate Bill No. 2450 or the bill that seeks the permanent validity of all documents obtained from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), particularly, live birth, death and marriage certificates that are issued, signed, certified and authenticated by the PSA.

According to Zubiri, the members of the Senate will hold a caucus on Monday, after the opening and third reading approval of some bills.

“But to be practical about it, this three weeks are really uncertain for those considered major contentious bills,” Zubiri said.

Asked about the proposed Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) bill that some senators have been pushing in light of the recent Typhoon Odette, Zubiri said there might not be enough time for the Senate to tackle the measure.

“So next Congress, I will refile and push for it if I hopefully make it back,” said Zubiri, who is running for re-election in the upcoming May polls.