By Alden M. Monzon, Reporter

Congress faced with 26 priority legislation in remaining time

Posted on November 02, 2015

AFTER a three-week break, Congress resumes sessions on Tuesday, with lawmakers set to continue tackling at least 26 pending priority bills as itemized by the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office -- including the 2016 national budget and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Among the other pending bills are the amendments to Republic Act No. 7718 or the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law; amendments to the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) Charter; amendments to the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA); and bills on Fiscal Incentives Rationalization and Rationalization of the Mining Fiscal Regime.

The proposed Freedom of Information law, an election-campaign advocacy of Benigno S. C. Aquino III when he ran for president in 2010, remains among the list of priorities in this lame-duck phase of his administration.

The Senate had passed its version in March last year, whereas the House of Representatives version is up for second reading, among the contentious issues being the right-to-reply provision for subjects of media scrutiny.

Also listed as a priority is the proposed Department of Information and Communications Technology which the business sector had been pushing to Mr. Aquino’s resistance. Recent international studies on global cyber-capability have also affirmed this recommendation for the Philippines.

The proposed law creating a new Bangsamoro region on the watch of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- Senate Bill (SB) No. 2894, filed by Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and House Bill (HB) No. 5811, filed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez -- is up for second reading in both plenaries. Lawmakers aim to pass this legislation, which had been derailed by the political fallout of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano encounter with the MILF, by their latest deadline of Dec. 16.

The proposed amendments to the BOT law are pending at the committee level: SB No. 459 by Senator Ralph G. Recto is pending at the Senate committee on public works, and a substitute bill to three House bills awaits approval at the House committee on appropriations.

The proposed amendments on the BSP Charter amendments is pending at the committee level at the Senate, while the House version awaits further plenary discussions.

The Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act (TIMTA), ratified by both chambers on Oct. 7, has yet to be signed into law.

The proposed measures on rationalizing mining revenue are also pending at the committee level.

The CMTA at the Senate, SB No. 2968, is pending second reading, while HB No. 5525 was passed on third and final reading on Oct. 9.

Another proposed legislation tagged as a priority serves to open the way to amending the constitutional restriction on foreign investment. But its principal advocates in Congress have expressed doubt that this will be tackled in the light of other priority legislation deemed urgent by Malacañang, notably the BBL.

Lawmakers have between this Tuesday until Dec. 18 to act on these priority legislation. The next scheduled break for Congress is Dec. 18, 2015 to Jan. 18, 2016.