House raring to push priority bills

Alan Peter Cayetano

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano said the House of Representatives will tackle immediately the priority bills when session resumes tomorrow.

Among these are the revenue measures  creating three departments, Cayetano said.

“We already have good laws like those that provide for universal health care or free PhilHealth insurance coverage for all Filipinos and free college education. We also have the massive Build, Build, Build infrastructure program. We have to fund these with taxes,” Cayetano said.

Before the Christmas break, the House Committee on Ways and Means endorsed the approval of at least four revenue measures, including one imposing a five percent license fee on Philippine offshore gaming operators or POGOs and income tax on their foreign workers.

Meanwhile, the three departments which the Congress sees as vital are the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Department of Water and the Department of Disaster Resilience.

According to Cayetano, the passage of the three measures for the creation of the new departments is very timely in view of the Taal volcano eruption, Middle East crisis, death of a domestic helper in Kuwait and the issues of water concessions.

Earlier, President Duterte’s order for the repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq highlighted the need for the creation of the proposed Department of Overseas Filipino Workers.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) likewise ordered the total ban on deployment of Filipinos to Kuwait following the death of Jennelyn Villavende.

“Even if we have a hardworking secretary of foreign affairs and an equally hardworking secretary of labor, they have other tasks. Secretary Roy Cimatu (of environment and natural resources) may be an expert on Middle East, but he too has other jobs. So what is important is for the nation to have a full-time secretary whose only job is to attend to the welfare and concern of OFWs,” he added.

As for the problem of water distribution in Metro Manila and neighboring areas, Cayetano said he supports the President’s decision for the government to have a new contract with water distributors Maynilad Water Services and Manila Water.

“I’m thankful that the two water concessionaires have already declared they are willing to talk, they are willing to look at it. So we hope the new contract could come out in the first quarter of this year. The earlier we can resolve it, the better for consumers,” he said.

He said the planned creation of a Department of Water Resources could be the long-term solution to the water supply-distribution problem.