Belmonte bares remaining legislative priorities of House

SPEAKER Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. today called on his colleagues to redouble their efforts in the third and last session of the 15th Congress, as he outlined the remaining legislative thrusts and priorities of the House which shall cover investments and job generation, good governance, greater peace and security, addressing rural growth and urbanization problems, as well as the strengthening of human capital resources.

The Speaker issued his call during his speech at the opening of the Third Regular Session this morning which preceded the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Aquino scheduled at 4 p.m.

“We must redouble our efforts in this third and last session of this Congress. Much more needs to be done and we are committed to do more in the service of our people,” the Speaker said.

Commending his colleagues for the numerous accomplishments of the House during the Second Regular Session, the Speaker said all these fruits of their collective hard work and dedication have strengthened the faith of the people in the House.

“We open the Third Regular Session with renewed vigor and a sense of urgency to complete the vital reforms we initiated to propel our country towards higher growth that will ensure our people’s improved well-being,” he said.

To further encourage investments and increase employment, the Speaker said lawmakers must accelerate the upgrading and modernization of the country’s infrastructure.

“We shall prioritize infrastructure spending in the 2013 national budget, and complement this with amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law to facilitate greater private sector participation,” he said.

He said Congress should support these policy directions with the passage of a complementary Anti-Trust Act that establishes a genuine level playing field among firms and effectively reduces transaction costs and risks, and an Open Skies policy to allow the growth of a more liberalized commercial aviation industry and pave the way for more tourist arrivals to boost our tourism sector – one of the fastest job-generating sectors of our economy today.

The House leader stressed the enhancement of an environment conducive to investments and job creation is not enough.  “We must ensure that these investments remain in the country.”

Thus, he said it is important to address persistent power supply constraints and high power costs by passing amendments to the EPIRA.

“Having a stable power supply, and competitive power rates, will revive our local manufacturing industries and provide opportunities for unskilled and rural workers,” he said.

He also cited the need to strengthen the National Electrification Administration by amending its Charter so that it can better undertake a comprehensive rural electrification program with electric cooperatives as its implementing arm.

“Our continued work on measures that seek to enhance the overall business environment will certainly prove crucial,” said the Speaker.

He said measures on the Rationalization of the Charters of the Philippine Ports Authority, MARINA, and the Civil Aeronautics Board require their attention and incisive study. The National Transport Policy Act which aims to set the parameters and direction for the development of the country’s transportation system also demand the solons’ utmost attention and swift action according to him.

Good governance

Meanwhile, to promote good governance, the Speaker stressed the need to amend the Government Procurement Reform Act, so that the procurement of goods shall be based on relevant characteristics and performance requirements, and not on brand names.

He said they also need to amend the Charter of the Bangko Sentral to strengthen the BSP’s oversight powers.

In the same pursuit of good governance, the Speaker said the House shall continue to work towards a regime of greater peace and security.

“We shall therefore facilitate legislative processing of the following measures: Amendment to the Witness P rotection, Security and Benefit Act to provide additional benefits under the program, the Extension of the AFP Modernization Program to rationalize security sector reform
and modernization initiatives towards greater transparency and accountability, and the Amendment to the National Defense and Security Act to define and clarify national defense policies,” he said.

To keep the country’s fiscal house in better shape, Belmonte enjoined his colleagues to work together to pass a Fiscal Responsibility Act.

In the area of promoting rural growth and address urbanization problems, the Speaker said they will push for the passage of a National Land Use and Management Act and the Institution of a Land Administration Reform Act. These measures will ensure the strategic use of the country’s land resources, according to him.

To strengthen the country’s human capital resources, the Speaker said they need to pass the K+12 measure – the act Enhancing the Curriculum of the Basic Education System and the measure Expanding the Coverage of the Science and Technology Scholarship Program.

“Any successful attempt to reform our education system must start at the system’s building blocks – the early education phase. We must also pass the measure, Expanding the Coverage of the Science and Technology Scholarship Program.  In developed countries, more than half of overall growth is contributed by science and technology.

We must give greater attention to science and technology in our own country if we are to join the ranks of the developed world,” he said.

RH bill

On the Reproductive Health Bill, he said the measure is already in plenary debate, and it is time the House votes on it.

“It has been discussed from every possible perspective by advocates and opponents alike not only in this Congress but in past congresses.

I think it is time we finally put it to a vote. Let the chips fall where they may. The same goes for the Freedom of Information Bill.

Even as we continue to deliberate upon and pass more vital measures, we shall continue to make the House of Representatives a bulwark of good governance,” he said.

According to him, the impeachment of a Chief Justice was a watershed event in the country’s history. “It is a clear signal to the entire world that the Philippines is serious in its anti-corruption campaign.

It proved that our democratic institutions work and that we put the highest premium on exacting accountability in public service,” he said.

While the country is winning in many fronts, the war is far from over. “We must work harder to emancipate our people from the clutches of poverty, and liberate public office from the perils of corruption,” he said.

It is true there are formidable challenges particularly in the face of the global economic crisis, and the constraints of the election period, as lawmakers begin their work in this Third and last Regular Session of the 15th Congress. But he urged them to renew their resolve.

“Let us continue to strengthen the legislative foundations of a brighter and more prosperous future for our country and our people.Carpe diem. Let us seize the day – together we shall again, with God’s help, prevail,” the Speaker said

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