By Jelly F. Musico
MANILA, June 10 (PNA) -– The Senate may have not approved the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before it adjourns sine die on Wednesday but it was able to pass landmark bills during the second regular session of the 16th Congress.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate approved 66 bills, 20 of which have been enacted into law, and adopted 45 resolutions from July 2014 up to June 10 this year.
”Even amid so many gripping obligations, the Senate had managed to fulfill its primary duty of enacting new and needed legislation on good governance, economic policies and public services that will uplift the nation and the lives of every Filipino citizen,” Drilon said.
Some of the landmark measures the Senate approved include: the Philippine Competition Act, the amendments to the Cabotage Law, and the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA).
“Our accomplishments and details of our work speak of our unwavering commitment to be more responsive to the demands and needs of our people,” Drilon said.
Some of the bills signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III are the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Act (RA 10660), the 2015 General Appropriations Act (RA 10651), the bill raising tax exemption rates for 13th Month pay and other benefits (RA 10653), and the Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648).
Drilon said five more proposed bills passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, such as the Open High School System Act, are still awaiting the President’s approval while six other measures, including the Unified Student Financial Assistance System (UNIFAST) Act, are being discussed by lawmakers from both chambers at the joint conference committee level.
At the same time, he said, the Senate also concurred in the ratification of four international agreements and conventions, including the Philippines’ social security agreements with Denmark and Portugal.
Drilon said the bills passed during regular session will boost the national economy, widen the reach of public education and social services, and institute good governance in the bureaucracy.
He said the Philippine Competition Act will protect businesses and consumers from monopolistic business activities and unfair trade and market practices.
Also approved key economic and trade measures include the amendments to the Cabotage Law to lower inter-island shipping costs; SBN 2686, a bill creating the new Department of Information and Communications Technology or DICT; and, the TIMTA or SBN 2669 which is seen to promote transparency and accountability in the grant of tax incentives to the private sector.
In the education sector, Drilon said, the Senate pushed the passage of at least half a dozen bills, including the Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), the Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647), and the Open High School System Act (SBN 2277), which aimed to provide more accessible educational systems to young Filipinos; and the Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648), and the UNIFAST Act (SBN 2679), both of which sought to expand state scholarship programs for more deserving students.
Drilon stressed that while the Senate paid attention to the passage of proposed measures on reforms and anti-corruption initiatives, such as the bill increasing the prescriptive period for the violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (SBN 2422), it also moved to improve the country’s social services with the Expanded Senior Citizen’s Act (RA 10645), which would provide mandatory Philhealth coverage for all Filipino senior citizens.
Drilon reiterated that the proposed BBL, a measure seeking genuine peace and progress in Mindanao, would continue to be an important priority in the Senate when sessions resume in July.
“The debates and discussions on the BBL will continue, and rest assured, the Senate will take a close look at this proposed law to make sure that whatever version we pass will truly be pro-peace, pro-prosperity and fully falls within the four corners of the Constitution,” he said.
He added that the Senate would also wrap up its work on about 56 bills that are already in advanced stages of legislation in the third and final regular session beginning next month.
He said that as agreed upon with the House leadership, the Senate would continue to push the passage of priority measures including the bill on the Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, the amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law, and the amendments to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Charter, the Filipino Identification Act, and the Philippine Maritime Zones Act.
Drilon assured that even with the coming of the 2016 election campaign period, the senators will remain dedicated to their legislative mandate.
“We vow as one chamber that we will build upon our legislative successes in this 2nd Regular Session. As we enter the 3rd Regular Session of this Congress, the public can expect one thing: We would continue actively working on relevant and important laws,” he said. (PNA)