Committee chairpersons of key panels in the House of Representatives said they are ready to move the needed legislation to advance the governance priorities President Ferdinand Marcos Jr laid out in his second State of the Nation Address.

Appropriations committee chairman Representative Zaldy Co of the AKO BICOL Party-list said legislative priorities are “fleshed out in the proposed 2024 national budget, future budgets, e-governance bills, and in the reforms to the procurement law. Now that we have heard the broad strokes writ large in the SONA, we will meet soon with the Cabinet secretaries to hammer out the details of each program and each project.”

“The proposed amendments to the procurement law are expected to move faster now that the President focused on it several times in his SONA. The bills are pending in the House committee on revision of laws. Same with the proposed e-governance law, which the House is eager to send to the President at the soonest possible time,” Co added.

Civil service and professional regulation chairperson Representative Alexie Tutor (Bohol, Third District) said, “The first step toward a new State Audit Code should begin at the Commission on Audit, the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of Finance, and the Governance Commission on GOCCs because they are at the forefront of and directly experience the intricacies of the antiquated audit rules and regulations.”

“We also want to receive proposed regulations from the practitioners of accounting and auditing (while) amendments to the government procurement law are already progressing toward passage by Congress,” Tutor stressed.

Tutor pointed out that among the State Audit Code amendments “should be provisions on forensic audits, information technology, and the use of artificial intelligence to detect patterns and anomalies in financial transactions in every national government agency and at local governments.

Co said, “much of the hard work will happen during the budget hearings. We in the House already did some of the work needed on the amendments to the procurement law and the proposed e-governance law (HB 7327). I expect the approval of those bills to be prioritized along with the budget hearings.”

“Passage of the new laws parallel to or ahead of the budget bill will boost the chances of the national budgets being implemented better. We will place in the 2024 and future budgets the funding and multi-year continuing authorization needed…to ensure the housing and agriculture programs are done right,” the legislator added.

Senior citizen affairs committee chairman Rodolfo Ordanes Jr. attested to what the President said particularly on the PhilHealth dialysis packages and geriatric care benefits for senior citizens.

“More seniors and others are receiving free dialysis and geriatric care now, based on the feedback I have received from the people I have been meeting with in my constituent visits in various parts of the country,” Ordanes said.

“I filed House Bills 2098 (Free Dialysis for Senior Citizens Act) and 2091 (Geriatric Health Act) in the House of Representatives. Given the President’s SONA pronouncement, I expect these bills to be given priority in the coming months,” the legislator pointed out.

“The vaccination programs are part of the benefits and services for seniors, so I hope the senior citizens avail of the free and safe vaccines.”

“The vaccination programs are part of the benefits and services for seniors, so I hope the senior citizens avail of the free and safe vaccines,” the lawmaker added.

Welfare of children committee chairperson and health committee vice chair Representative Angelica Natasha Co said that to her and her health sector colleagues, “the most important part of SONA, music to my ears, was when President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr vowed that COVID allowances for all public and private health workers would be distributed. Syempre po, alam natin hindi ito ora-orada na bukas nandyan na ang pera, pero this declaration coming from no less than the President is a step forward towards realizing it.”

“The presidential proclamation lifting the state of public health emergency at this time means the country can start moving on from COVID. Emphasis on ‘start’ because Congress must first send to President Marcos for his signature or for lapsing into law the bills on the Medical Reserve Corps, the Creation of the Virology Institute of the Philippines, and the Centers for Disease Control,” the lady legislator added.

Co said, “passage of these health bills should be first among the priority bills from the last State of the Nation Address to move ahead in the second regular session. These bills should reach the President’s desk within the first few weeks of the 19th Congress’ second regular session.”

“Ending the state of public health emergency does not mean these three COVID-related bills are any less important or urgent.”

The lady lawmaker explained that ending the state of public health emergency does not mean these three COVID-related bills are any less important or urgent.

“These bills are necessary to prepare our country for the next pandemic, epidemics, and outbreaks,” Co stressed. “The revenue measures from the first regular session should follow not far behind because these health bills and the 2024 budget need immediate funding. Certification as urgent of these bills could help move the bills faster.”

“We await the post-emergency implementing rules and regulations from the DOH. I suggest that the IRR should allow hospitals to keep their anti-COVID rules in place for as long as the hospitals deem necessary for safety reasons and medical protocols. We also want clarity from DOH on keeping the vaccines and booster shots free of charge and reasonable availability and access at designated hospitals, clinics, and drugstores,” she added.



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