House supports reform thrust

January 31, 2020

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez yesterday said the leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is relentless in its work to help the administration institutionalize the crucial reforms that are vital to delivering the “campaign promises” of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte and sustain economic growth.

Romualdez assured another remarkable performance this year by the House of Representatives in terms of the timely passage of President Duterte’s legislative agenda aimed at making the life of Filipinos more comfortable.

“We assure you that we will do a better job under the leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, we will be inspired to work harder, smarter and more efficiently,” said Romualdez, who chairs the powerful House Committee on Rules.

“The Speaker plays an active role in engaging all the stakeholders, including the media. We actually share these values, these priorities, these initiatives. Nagkakaintindihan kami agad. Isang tinginan lang, okey na,” said Romualdez.

The recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing President Duterte’s personal record of a ‘+72’ or “excellent” net satisfaction rating means that the majority of Filipinos believe that he will be able to fulfill most of his promises in the next three years of his term.

“The latest rating of President Duterte is exceptional considering that performance ratings of former presidents typically decline after the first half of their term. The good rating of the President largely reflects the accomplishment of his war on drugs which is the centerpiece of his administration. Billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs have been confiscated by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) since Duterte took the presidency. Indeed, President Duterte has started a radical leadership that targets even the hardest and seemingly unending problem of illegal drugs,” Cavite Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga, Jr., president of the National Unity Party (NUP).

Barzaga likened the notable performance of the President to a litmus test to which all public elected officials are subjected.

“As he puts forth, it is not what the critics would say nor the allies but what the public would consider on the war on drugs (that matters). Therefore, with the acceptability of the general public, being an indicative barometer, President Duterte has indeed passed with flying colors his war on drugs,” Barzaga, who chairs the House committee on natural resources, added.

“President Duterte is the first chief executive to expose a list of narco-politicians ranging from congressmen to mayors; and even naming some members of the judiciary, as well as the so-called ninja generals and cops. It is a bold and brave move of the President to make such public declaration considering that drug problem is a complicated social problem involving powerful syndicates,” Barzaga added.

Strong political will

Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte has said that President Duterte’s latest rating is testament to the public’s ever growing awareness and appreciation of his strong political will and decisive leadership in effecting tough, even if sometimes painful, reforms to lift Filipinos from generational poverty while attracting investments and sustaining the country’s growth momentum.

Villafuerte said President Duterte is likely to maintain, if not surpass, his record public trust and satisfaction scores in the tracking polls of prominent and credible pollsters such as SWS for the remainder of his presidency as he implements further reforms to improve the living standards of all Filipinos, such as the full implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) program and the establishment of Malasakit Centers nationwide, both of which will expand the poor’s access to quality medical services.

“President Duterte’s record ratings halfway through his term—at this point in their respective terms when past Philippine presidents had seen their public opinion poll ratings already on a decline—is testament to the ever-growing public awareness and appreciation of the non-traditional Chief Executive’s strong political will and decisive leadership in implementing tough, even if sometimes painful, reforms meant to lift Filipinos from poverty, sustain high growth and generate investments and jobs,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte pointed out that “in accelerating investments in infrastructure and social services, President Duterte has found a novel way to keep the Philippines among the world’s fastest-growing economies while creating jobs and ensuring better lives for all Filipino families.”

He noted that among the reform measures put in place by President Duterte to attack poverty in the first half of his term are the laws or measures providing for free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs), institutionalizing the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) for the poorest households; and giving away unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) for low-income families and transport subsidies for public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers.

Cayetano expressed his overwhelming support and commendation to the Duterte administration for making a significant headway in pursuing measures to provide a safer and more comfortable life for the Filipinos.

The administration’s efforts have started to make significant impact with 5.9 million Filipinos pulled out of poverty in 2018, as poverty incidence fell to 16.6 percent from 23.3 percent in 2015.

At the start of the session, the House leaders have reiterated that they will prioritize the passage of the bills creating three key vital departments: Department of Disaster Resilience, Department of Overseas Filipinos and Department of Water.

Cayetano also vowed to pass priority tax measures . “We have good laws like the Universal Health Care, and Free Tertiary Education Act but we need to ensure that the they are properly funded hence we need to pass all these tax measures.”

Last week, the President signed the measure imposing additional excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and e-cigarettes effective January 2020. The new law is set to generate around P24.9 billion in revenues for the government, which will be used for the implementation of the Universal Health Care program, Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the Department of Health and programs seeking to attain the country’s Sustainable Development Goals.

To ensure that the economic growth will be not greatly affected by the recent Taal volcano eruption, Speaker Cayetano has urged his colleagues to help craft long-lasting, reliable solutions, programs and mechanisms to help the country cope with the effects of disaster.

“We need to speed up the rehabilitation efforts so that the government can effectively assist the affected victims and reinvigorate the CALABARZON local economy,” he added.

After the first ever out-of-town plenary Session in Batangas last week, Speaker Cayetano convened a meeting with House Leaders and Committee Chairpersons to discuss the possible sources of the requirements of the recovery and rehabilitation programs for the Taal Volcano victims.

“Tuloy tuloy po ang aming coordination, kasama si Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, and Chairperson Lucy Torres-Gomez together with the different  Chairpersons of Committees like Cong Mark Enverga, Cong. Helen Tan, para i-converge or ipagsama-sama ang suggestions ng lahat ng Kongresista ng CALABARZON para maging effective po ang aming pagtulong-tulong.” Cayetano said.

The House leaders also urged the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) not to repeat the mistakes of the past when the slow pace of utilization caused the money to be reverted to the National Treasury.

Legarda assured the concerned local governments directly affected such as Batangas and Cavite that there are available Quick Response Funds, which can be tapped by the different agencies such as Department of Agriculture and Department of Public Works and Highways and there are still unused funds from the 2019 Calamity Funds.

An inclusive anti-poverty program, coupled with pro-active and reliable disaster resilience measures, can ensure that the President’s vision of a safe and comfortable life for all Filipinos will be sustainable even in times of disasters or natural calamities.