Congress to come up with list of urgent bills

MANILA, Philippines - The leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives aims to come up with a common list of priority legislation ahead of the convening of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said yesterday.

Pimentel said he and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez would meet to work on a single list of urgent bills that need to be passed in the next few months that will be tabled at the LEDAC, tentatively scheduled before the end of the month.

The LEDAC is a mechanism created by law where the president and members of the Cabinet meet with leaders of Congress to agree on a set of legislative priorities.

Congress will resume session on Jan. 16.

Senators held a caucus on Wednesday night in Makati City to discuss which bills to prioritize.

Each senator was asked to submit a list of 10 measures they want immediately approved so the chamber can try to line them up for passage before it adjourns sine die in June.

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“As much as we all want to, it’s really difficult for the Senate to pass all our pet bills, so we’ll have to rationalize a bit. The House has its own priorities so we have to talk and be productive,” Pimentel said in a telephone interview.

He said he has not yet spoken at length with President Duterte on his requests from lawmakers in terms of legislation.

“We will strategize the use of time from January to March session. We will identify non-controversial measures, which can be processed alongside controversial ones,” Pimentel told reporters on Thursday.

He said the chamber would not let the controversial measures eat up the senators’ time “that we forget processing pet or priority bills, which are non-controversial.”

Among the bills senators agreed to prioritize are the provisions of free tuition in state universities and colleges, free irrigation for farmers, universal health insurance coverage and nutritious meals for students in public primary schools.

There was also a discussion among the senators about the reduction of the individual income tax rate, revival of the death penalty, election spending reporting, creation of a boxing commission, department of overseas Filipino workers and the ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the goal was to pass as many of the pet bills within the next two months as possible.