Velasco: House to resume sessions on Monday with limited number of members, staff physically present

Published January 16, 2022, 12:11 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

The House of Representatives will resume its session on Monday, Jan. 17, with less than a month left to pass on final reading two priority bills before adjourning for the upcoming elections.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said lawmakers will only have three remaining weeks, which are equivalent to nine sessions, to finish some priority measures, including the proposed Rural Financial Inclusion and Literacy Act as well as the House Bill 10579, which aims to strengthen the field offices of the Commission on Elections by upgrading and creating certain positions.

Velasco also said various committees will be doubling their efforts to finalize the proposed Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers and the National Housing Development Act, as well as the bill assigning health workers in every barangay across the country.

With measures against COVID-19 in place for the resumption, Velasco said, the House “continues to fulfill its mandate of producing laws designed to improve the lives of Filipinos.”

“This is not the time to be complacent. We needed to step up our health and safety protocols in the House so we could keep the legislative mill running even in the midst of what has been described as the worst surge in COVID-19 cases in the country,” he said.

Velasco also appealed to the Senate to act on at least a dozen measures that have already been approved on final reading by the House before they adjourn on February 5.

These include the proposed Internet Transactions Act and the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises or GUIDE Act; the bills creating the Medical Reserve Corps, Philippine Virology Institute, and Center for Disease Prevention and Control; hiring of mental health professionals in basic education; increasing social pension of indigent senior citizens; and strengthening data privacy protection.

“We urge the Senate to expedite the deliberations and approval of these measures so we can pass them into law before the campaign period,” he said.

On January 4, the House started to be placed under lockdown due to threat of the Omicron variant.

Velasco maintained that only 20 percent of the workforce in each department and office in the House will be allowed to report for work starting Monday.

An antigen test will be administered to those physically reporting for work at the start of every week. Those who have symptoms or have received a positive test result should consult a physician and self-isolate for at least 7 days, pursuant to the recent guidelines released by the Department of Health.

The sessions shall be held from Monday to Wednesday, with a limited number of House members and Secretariat personnel physically present inside the plenary hall. The rest of lawmakers shall attend the session through videoconference.

All committee meetings, public hearings and events in the House shall be conducted via videoconferencing platforms.