House leader lays out priorities for 2nd regular session

MANILA-- A leader of the House of Representatives on Monday identified four legislative priorities of the lower chamber for the second regular session that is set to begin on July 24.

In a press conference, Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia said among the priority measures of the House for the next legislative session include the proposed 2018 budget, the supplemental budget for the rehabilitation of the strife-torn Marawi City, Charter change, and the civil union bill.

Garcia assured that the proposed 2018 budget will support the massive infrastructure plan of the Duterte administration.

"Such a massive infrastructure undertaking will need the support of a budget that will support all of these projects that will be built throughout the entire country not just in Metro Manila and Luzon but to be seen from Luzon, Visayas and up to Mindanao," Garcia said.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier announced that the proposed PHP3.767-trillion budget for 2018 will be submitted to Congress on the second State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 24.

Apart from the national budget for next year, Garcia said the House will also focus on the supplemental budget for the rehabilitation and recovery of Marawi City.

"With the armed conflict in Marawi City transforming into a humanitarian crisis and even an infrastructure crisis, restoring normalcy in the lives of displaced residents, reviving local commerce, rebuilding homes in the city have become a necessity for the executive and legislative branches," she said.

The Duterte administration pledged to allot a budget of PHP20 billion to rebuild Marawi City.

Garcia also expressed hope that Congress could move forward with its efforts to achieve Charter change as it prioritizes the shift toward federalism, which has been the battle cry of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Garcia noted that a House panel has already passed a measure calling for both houses of Congress to convene as a constituent assembly.

"We hope that the Senate will be acting on a similar measure so that we may finally tackle a growing sentiment amongst so many Filipinos for the need of Charter change in order to adopt the changing realities and needs of our times," she said.

Earlier, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Congress will convene as a constituent assembly early next year with or without the Palace's executive order creating the Constitutional Commission (ConCom).

Garcia said a measure seeking to legalize civil union not just for same-sex couples but also for heterosexual couples will be prioritized this second regular session.

Garcia said the measure, which has yet to be filed, will promote the civil and human rights of same-sex couples and even heterosexual couples who want to live together but are not yet ready to get married.

Source: Philippine News Agency