To-do list for Congress

To-do list for Congress

That was a long to-do list presented by President Duterte yesterday as the 18th Congress opened its second regular session. In a reminder of the raging pandemic, physical attendance at his penultimate State of the Nation Address was drastically limited, with fewer than 30 lawmakers present.

As expected, addressing the public health and economic crisis spawned by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic dominated the priority measures enumerated by the President, with the exception of the renewed push for the restoration of the death penalty through lethal injection for drug offenses.

Congress has a lot on its plate. In addition to the often contentious deliberations on the next national budget, it is expected to pass the second edition of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. For the economic stimulus package, it must discuss CREATE and FIST – acronyms for providing tax incentives and other forms of assistance so companies, financial institutions and distressed enterprises can recover from the pandemic.

In addition, the President is asking Congress to create new departments for overseas Filipino workers and for disaster resiliency, as well as a National Disease Management Authority and the Boracay Island Authority. He also reminded lawmakers of the long pending National Land Use bill.

Also in the to-do list for Congress are measures on national housing development and rental housing subsidy. The President also wants to institutionalize the Medical Reserve Corps, establish a Coconut Farmers Trust Fund, modernize the Bureau of Immigration and Bureau of Fire Protection, and amend the 2016 law on continuing professional development.

With his new emphasis on paperless governance, the President wants Congress to pass the Internet Transaction Act. He is also pushing for the Advanced Nursing Education Act, the Uniformed Military and Uniformed Services Personnel Separation, Retirement and Pension Act as well as the Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing Systems Act.

That’s a lot of legislation ahead, even for measures that are not expected to be as contentious as the budget bill and the revival of capital punishment. Congress must hit the ground running.