House to focus on COVID-19 vaccine, other legislative priorities as session resumes

By: Neil Arwin Mercado – Reporter / @NAMercadoINQ

The House of Representatives will focus on the issue of COVID-19 vaccination and other legislative priorities as it resumes session on January 18, Monday.

The lower chamber will resume its session on Monday afternoon following its holiday break. However, even before the session resumes, the House committee on health will conduct a hearing on the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination program set on Monday morning.

Among those invited to Monday’s hearing of the House health panel, chaired by Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan, were Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.

“Our goal is to make sure that every Filipino will have access to a safe and effective vaccine, which is currently the best way for us to beat the virus and move forward,” House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said in a statement.

Congress has allocated P72.5 billion for the purchase, storage, transportation, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.

Another P2 billion has been earmarked for the purchase of personal protective equipment or PPE to ensure that health workers are safe as they carry out their duty of saving every patient from the virus.

Other legislative priorities

Aside from the COVID-19 vaccine, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the lower chamber will also move to fast-track the approval of 34 legislative priorities, which includes bill seeking to give President Rodrigo Duterte the power to suspend the scheduled increases in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS) “in times of national emergencies.”

According to Velasco, of the 34 pending legislative priorities, one was approved on the second reading—a bill seeking additional benefits for solo parents—while the rest are set to be tackled at the committee level.

Among the priority bills pending at the committee level are the proposed Magna Carta of Barangays; National Housing Development Act; Department of Water Resources and Services; death penalty for plunder, heinous crimes related to drugs; the rightsizing of the national government; and the constitutional amendments as to economic provisions.

Meanwhile, Velasco said 13 other legislative priorities have already been approved on final reading which includes the proposed Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer or FIST Act, Bureau of Fire Protection Modernization Act, Internet Transaction Act, and the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act.

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