Congress will rally behind DU30 dev’t agenda — Romualdez

LEADING speakership candidate and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Sunday assured the country’s economic managers that Congress will align its legislative agenda with President Duterte’s medium-term development plan, which aims to cut poverty almost by half by 2022.

Romualdez, one of the leading contenders for Speaker, said key leaders of the House of Representatives have committed in a multi-party caucus to act swiftly on President Duterte’s priority economic bills to help fulfill his vision of transforming the country into an upper-middle income economy by 2022.

“I have already relayed this commitment to the President and his economic team. The House of Representatives will work double-time to act on the President’s priority bills, especially those aimed at improving the lives of our people,” said Romualdez, president of both Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) and Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).

The Leyte solon reiterated such commitment as he graces this Monday’s pre-SONA event of the President’s economic team at the PICC Reception Hall in Pasay City.

Romualdez, a former House Independent Bloc leader of the 16th Congress or during the Aquino administration, expressed appreciation for the personal invitation extended by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, saying it would give him a chance to be given updates on the economic team’s proposed priority bills for the 18th Congress.

“I am thankful that Sec. Sonny and the rest of the economic team accepted our offer of a cohesive working relationship with Congress. This will help facilitate congressional action on the President’s legislative agenda,” he said.

Romualdez noted that the President’s economic bills were among the measures included in the priority list which was agreed upon by the multi-party caucus of House leaders in Seda Hotel last Tuesday.

The caucus drew the attendance of 40 House leaders from various political parties and influential blocs in the 18th Congress including the PDP-Laban, Lakas-CMD, Nacionalista Party, Liberal Party, and the Party-List Coalition.

Romualdez said the House leaders were unanimous in support of the President’s legislative agenda and all agreed to act swiftly for the passage of laws needed to propel the country’s economic growth to new heights.

“We know that we face a Herculean task, but nothing is impossible with a House united. The multi-party coalition is committed in aligning our efforts to the President’s medium-term development plan or the new Philippine Development Plan,” the Leyte solon said.

The new PDP is the first medium term development plan to be aligned with a long-term vision -- contained in Ambisyon Natin 2040 — of attaining inclusive economic growth in the country and eventually transforming the Philippines into a knowledge economy through increased innovation.

The PDP has 21 chapters containing strategies for laying down the foundation for inclusive growth, a high trust society and a globally competitive economy.

By 2022, the Philippines is envisioned to become an upper-middle income economy growing seven to eight percent annually.

Overall poverty rate is targeted to decline from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14 percent, almost half, by 2022. Poverty incidence in rural areas is targeted to decrease from 30 percent in 2015 to 20 percent in 2022.

The government also wants to cut down unemployment from 5.5 percent in 2016 to 3.5 percent by 2022.

Romualdez noted that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has prodded Congress to pass more laws that are in line with the Philippine Development Plan for 2017 to 2022.

According to NEDA, the six-year road map laid down by stakeholders requires the enactment of around 100 pieces of legislation.

Only seven out of the 21 bills that are included in the Philippine Development Plan have, so far, been approved by the 17th Congress. Almost all were approved by the House of Representatives before the legislative break, but these bills were stalled in the Senate.

Topping the priority list of the 18th Congress, according to House leaders, were the 2020 national budget as well as funding requirements for the President’s infrastructure projects, including the “Build, Build, Build” Program.

Also included were measures containing amendments to the Foreign Investments Act, Public Service Act, and Bank Secrecy Law, as well as the Security of Tenure Bill, Budget Reform Act, National Land Use Act, the Rightsizing of the National Government, Trabaho bill or TRAIN 2, and taxes on mining, alcohol and tobacco.