Lower House passes 19 bills on first of day of regular session

Published January 17, 2022, 8:03 PM

by Ben Rosario

With only nine days left to act on vital legislative measures, the House of Representatives utilized its first working day on Monday, Jan. 17 passing on final reading 19 legislative measures, most of which are of national significance.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco explaining

Among the measures approved were bills providing for additional benefits for senior citizens, tax cut for live entertainment industry and rural financial inclusion.

Passed unanimously were two bills strengthening constitutional provisions on human rights and right to religion.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco lauded his colleagues for taking part in the Monday session notwithstanding the challenges posed by the latest COVID-19 surge driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Over 200 House members responded to the roll call during the virtual session.

“We thank our colleagues for their unwavering dedication and commitment to enacting meaningful and relevant laws that will benefit Filipinos even in the face of overwhelming challenges,” Velasco said.

Among the bills approved on third and final reading are the following:

-House Bill (HB) 10541 or the proposed “Film and Live Events Recovery Act” aims to ensure that livelihood opportunities are made available to Filipinos working in the creative industries including film, music and live events by lowering from 10 percent to five percent the amusement tax collected by local government units.

– HB 10555 or the proposed “Free College Entrance Examinations Act” seeks to mandate private higher educational institutions (HEIs) to waive college entrance examination fees to underprivileged high school students and high school graduates belonging to the top 10 percent of the graduating class.

-HB 10560 mandates the establishment of the Tertiary Education Subsidy in all state universities and colleges, local universities and colleges, private higher education institutes, and technical vocational institutions to Filipino students enrolling in the first undergraduate post-secondary tertiary education of their choice.

-HB 10561 proposes to establish the Enterprise-Based Education and Training Program which will strengthen middle-level manpower education and training programs and at the same time ensure the steady supply of educated and competitive manpower equipped with the appropriate skills and desirable work habits and attitudes to meet the requirements, demands, and standards of the workplace both in the local and international market.

-HB 10568 seeks to increase the discount rate and exempt from value added tax or VAT the monthly electric and water consumption of senior citizens, provided that the monthly consumption does not exceed 150 kwh of electricity and 30 cubic meters of water, and that the senior citizen under whose name the individual meters of said utilities is registered continues to live within the household address.

– HB 10579 aims to strengthen the field offices of the Commission on Elections by upgrading and creating certain positions for its personnel, thereby equipping them to be more responsive to the public and further protect the right of suffrage of Filipino citizens.

-HB 10582 or the proposed “Rural Financial Inclusion and Literacy Act” seeks to promote financial empowerment and reduce financial vulnerabilities among its citizen by promoting financial inclusion and literacy programs that contribute in establishing a financial system to benefit all Filipinos regardless of socio-economic status, to accelerate economic growth and development especially in rural and provincial areas.

-HB 10610 seeks to encourage the registration of firearms and reduce the number of loose firearms proliferating in the country by fixing the validity period of the license to own and possess, registration, and permit to carry firearms outside of residence or place of business.

Two bills were considered among the vital pieces of legislation that seek to further strengthen the human and religious rights of citizens: HB 10569 or the proposed “Magna Carta on Religious Freedom Act” aims to ensure that no act of the government, or any of its instrumentalities, officers or employees shall burden, curtail, impinge or encroach on the person’s right to exercise one’s religious belief, freedom and liberty of conscience.

-HB 10576 aims to recognize and protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of a human rights defender. The Bill defines a human rights defender as any person who, by one’s self or in association with others, acts or seeks to act to protect, promote or strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms and welfare of the people, at the local, national, regional, and international levels.

Two bills granting Filipino citizenship to Chinese nationals were also approved on third and final reading although a few lawmakers voted against the measures.

During Monday’s session, the chamber also ratified the bicameral committee report on the proposed Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act, which provides for a national energy policy and regulatory framework for the use of electric vehicles and their development as an industry.