House, Senate leaders meet weeks after Velasco assumes Speakership

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 05 2020 08:07 PM

Congressional leaders led by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and Senate President Vicente Sotto III met Wednesday to iron out a common legislative agenda. Photo from House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco's office

MANILA - House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday said congressional leaders are working on a common legislative agenda for the remaining 20 months of the 18th Congress. 

The informal caucus was held in a hotel in Mandaluyong City on Wednesday, Nov. 4, Velasco said, noting that he is looking forward to a "new era of cooperation" between the two chambers.

"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," he told reporters in a statement.

"We consider the senators as vital partners, allies and friends, and we thank the Senate leadership for this productive meeting," he said.

The House and the Senate leaders who attended the meeting were:

Senate
- Senate President Vicente Sotto III
- Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
- Senate Finance Committee chair Sonny Angara

House of Representatives
- House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco
- House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez
- House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap
- House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen “Caraps” Paduano

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also joined the meeting via videoconference, the House Speaker said.

Velasco did not give specific targets set by the lawmakers, but said that President Rodrigo Duterte "can rely on Congress to help him fulfill his promises to our people before his term ends" in 2022.

"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," Velasco said.

Among the legislative measures mentioned in Duterte's previous State of the Nation Address (SONA) are the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act, Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act, and the bill creating the Department of Overseas Filipinos.

The House also asked 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, Velasco said.

As for the 2021 national budget, Velasco said he is confident that the spending bill would be passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law before the year ends to prevent a reenacted spending program that could slow economic growth and hamper the delivery of government services. 

"We have a good working relationship with the Senate, and everyone is united," he said.

"The House and Senate leaderships were both in agreement that the national budget should be approved as soon as possible," he added.

The House transmitted the approved copy of the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget to the Senate on October 27, about a month later than the original deadline, but a day ahead of an adjusted schedule after a power struggle between Velasco and ousted Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

The record-high budget was designed to further strengthen government response and stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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