SPEAKER Lord Allan Velasco said Thursday he is looking forward to a “new era of cooperation” between the House of Representatives and the Senate as the two chambers began to craft a common legislative agenda for the remaining 20 months of the 18th Congress.
“We look forward to a very good working relationship between the House and the Senate as both chambers strive to ensure the remaining sessions of the 18th Congress will be fruitful and productive,” the Speaker said.
Velasco issued the statement after he and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III led an informal caucus of House and Senate leaders at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City.
The meeting initiated by the Speaker was also attended by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Finance Committee chair Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap, and House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen “Caraps” Paduano.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also joined the meeting via videoconferencing app Webex.
“We consider the senators as vital partners, allies and friends, and we thank the Senate leadership for this productive meeting,” Velasco said.
During the meeting between the leaders of both chambers, ahead of the resumption of sessions on Nov. 16 in the House, the lawmakers agreed to come up with common legislative priority targets for the next five months in accordance with the agenda set out by President Rodrigo Duterte in his State of the Nation Address last July, with additional inputs from the House and the Senate.
Included in the President’s legislative agenda are the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises or CREATE Act, Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer or FIST Act, Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act, and the bill creating the Department of Overseas Filipinos.
“The President, in his remaining years as our Chief Executive, can rely on Congress to help him fulfill his promises to our people before his term ends,” Velasco said.
“We take seriously his call to put an end to systemic corruption, and we will work together with our fellow lawmakers to come up with legislation to help our overseas Filipino workers, farmers and fisherfolk,” he added.
Velasco said the House also requested the Senate to prioritize the proposed Magna Carta of Barangay Workers to support barangay frontliners, as well as the proposed Internet Transactions Act that seeks to protect consumers, especially with the increase in online transactions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Velasco leadership got off to a good start with its relationship with the Senate following the early transmittal of the House-approved 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to the upper chamber.
Velasco expressed confidence the GAB will be passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Duterte before the year ends to prevent a reenacted spending program that could slow economic growth and hamper the delivery of government services.
“The House and Senate leaderships were both in agreement that the national budget should be approved as soon as possible,” Velasco said.
Last Oct. 27, the House transmitted the approved copy of the proposed P4.506-trillion 2021 GAB to the Senate one day ahead of schedule.
The record-high budget was designed to further strengthen government response and stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Velasco said he expects both chambers of Congress to work harmoniously on the GAB and other proposed measures that would help the country recover faster from the pandemic.
“We have a good working relationship with the Senate, and everyone is united,” Velasco said. “We are confident that we can pass responsive laws that will help our countrymen rise above this pandemic before the year ends.”