LEADERS OF CONGRESS on Monday agreed to approve 30 bills identified as priorities of the Marcos administration, including the amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law and the National Government rightsizing program.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Monday convened the 20-member Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) for the first time under his administration.
During Monday’s meeting, the LEDAC listed 32 bills under the common legislative agenda, which includes 20 priority measures earlier mentioned by Mr. Marcos during his State of the Nation Address in July.
Twelve measures were added by Congress leaders including the SIM Registration Act, which was signed into law on Monday, and the postponement of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
In a statement, Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said the Senate and House agreed to approve six of the 30 measures by yearend, namely the amendments to the BOT Law, Medical Reserve Corps, National Disease Prevention Management Authority/Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines, mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and National Service Training Program (ROTC/NSTP), and Condonation of Unpaid Amortization and Interest on Loans of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries.
House Speaker Martin G. Romualdez said in a separate statement that legislators will give the “utmost priority” to the remaining 30 bills under the common legislative agenda.
“The House is in full support of the President’s entire legislative agenda, including the key priority measures for legislation he has asked Congress to consider. We will act on these with dispatch,” Mr. Romualdez said.
Aside from the six measures earlier mentioned, Mr. Marcos’ legislative agenda includes the National Government Rightsizing Program, amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), the Real Property Valuation Reform Bill, Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act, E-Governance Act, E-Government Act, Internet Transaction Act, Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) Bill, Unified System of Separation, Retirement and Pension Bill, Department of Water Resources Bill, National Land Use Act, Budget Modernization Bill, National Defense Act, and the Enabling Law for the Natural Gas Industry.
The House and Senate identified their priority measures, which included the establishment of Regional Specialty Hospitals, the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers, establishing the Negros Island Region, New Philippine Passport Act, Waste-to-Energy Bill, Apprenticeship Act, a bill providing free legal assistance for military and uniformed personnel, Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers, creation of the Leyte Ecological Industrial Zone, and creation of the Eastern Visayas Development Authority.
To expedite the passage of these bills, Mr. Romualdez said the House will continue to use a rule that allows committees to immediately dispose of priority measures that were approved on third reading in the previous Congress.
“The passage of many of these bills banks on the popularity of the president. In fact, these bills can facilitate the president’s agenda: infrastructure program, reforms in the ROTC/NSTP, and interventions in the agriculture sector,” Jan Robert S. Go, a political analyst, said in a Messenger chat. “Right now, Marcos enjoys the support of both chambers.”
Leonardo A. Lanzona, who teaches economics at the Ateneo de Manila University, said in a Messenger chat that the Marcos administration’s priority bills “fail to take into account the current situation that most households are faced with.”
“This involves an assessment of the current problems arising from the economic crisis and the capacity of the institutions designed to enforce them,” he said.
Mr. Lanzona noted the government needs to “focus only on two or three measures and to strengthen the institutions that will implement these measures.”
“Amendments to the BOT Law should not go the current route of its IRR amendment, in which tariff and fees may be raised by private proponents even prior to regulatory approval,” Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst, said in a Messenger chat.
Mr. Ridon noted amending the EPIRA, which paved the way for the privatization of the energy sector, would be difficult.
“Energy companies with political allies in Congress will certainly make sure to further limit the government’s regulatory powers,” he said.
Mr. Ridon said amendments to EPIRA and BOT Law “should only be undertaken to enhance protection for consumers and end-users and to prevent regulatory capture by interest groups.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza