January 31, 2023

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RCEP ratification Senate priority | The Juan Kabayan

THE Senate will prioritize in 2023 the passage of bills of national importance and the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said.

For this year, the Senate has lined up its priorities: RCEP ratification, the condonation of unpaid amortization and interest on loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries and the Armed Forces of the Philippines amendment on fixed term.

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri. Photo from Senate

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri. Photo from Senate

Zubiri said the Senate will focus on the passage of the proposed Medical Reserve Corps Act, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control Act, and the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines Act.

“I promised the people that this will be a Senate oriented toward national reconstruction, and that remains our goal as we move into the new year,” the Senate chief earlier said.

“We also expect to tackle the Maharlika Fund Bill soon, not as a priority measure, but as a measure for deep discussion and careful consideration,” he added.

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“Having identified our priority legislations and having established the pace of committee and plenary proceedings, we are ready to improve our coordination and we are ready to work harder to address the needs of our people. It is onward and upward from here,” Zubiri said.

Senate Majority Leader Emmanuel Joel Villanueva said the bill on employment recovery will also be a priority.

“We are also prioritizing the institutionalization of the National Employment Recovery Strategy which is something the President (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) himself also sees as an urgent measure to be passed during our (earlier) Ledac (Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council) meeting,” he said.

Zubiri said that since the start of the 19th Congress in July 2022, the senators have been able “to lay down the foundations for an effective and productive Senate.”

The chamber was able to “support and spearhead our country’s continued efforts to recover from the pandemic, while also looking beyond recovery and into further growth.”

Performance-wise, the work of the Senate is already in action, Zubiri said. Telecommunications companies have begun the process of SIM (subscriber identification module) registration, as part of the implementation of the SIM Registration Act, which was the first law passed under the 19th Congress.

“With the successful implementation of this law, we will be able to cut down on the use of anonymous SIMs for criminal activities such as scams, identity theft, and even terrorism,” he said.

“I am also proud of how we have built productive working relationships with our partners in the House of Representatives, as well as the Executive,” Zubiri said.

The senator said the swift passage of the P5.2 trillion 2023 General Appropriations Act “is testament to this,” as he voiced hope that it will “set a precedent for the smooth and unproblematic passage of laws” in 2023.

With better coordination between the executive and the legislative, “we will see less vetoes, and we will be able to focus our time and resources on measures that will really be of service of the people,” Zubiri stressed.

“At the same time, we have continued to uphold the proud independence of the Senate, providing checks and balances through efforts such as the Senate Oversight Committee for Confidential and Intelligence Funds,” he added.

He said that the Senate investigated pressing issues such as the unauthorized signing of sugar importation order, the rampant criminality within the Philippine offshore gaming operators industry, and the procurement of overpriced laptops for the Department of Education.

“Even on our last day of session this year, we looked into the concerning aggression of the China Coast Guard against our own Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea,” Zubiri said.