Legarda Reports Legislative Accomplishments in 1st Regular Session, 17th Congress

Senator Loren Legarda, a three-term senator who chairs the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Finance, and Climate Change, has authored and co-authored 148 bills and 36 resolutions during the First Regular Session of the Seventeenth Congress.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, Legarda also sponsored the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the first budget under President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, which she described as pro-people as it addresses the most basic needs of the people while improving the country's economic growth.

"The 2017 GAA proved that we can prioritize the most basic needs of our people. The 2017 budget provided funds to ensure universal healthcare coverage, free irrigation for farmers, free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs), additional allowance for teachers, police and military, rice allowance for conditional cash transfer beneficiaries, creation of drug rehabilitation centers, increase in prisoners' subsistence allowance, pension for Post World War II veterans and centenarians, among many others. The budget also allowed for higher infrastructure spending, which is seen as a tool for poverty reduction, raising productivity, and in spreading the benefits of economic growth," she said.

Legarda co-authored bills that support continuity of programs introduced in the 2017 GAA, such as the Free Higher Education Bill and the Free Irrigation Bill.

The Free Higher Education Bill, which has been approved on 3rd reading by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, institutionalizes the provision of full tuition fee subsidy for students enrolled in all of the country's SUCs, local universities and colleges (LUCs) and in state-run technical-vocational institutions.

The Free Irrigation Bill, which has been approved by the Senate on 2nd reading, will provide free irrigation services to small farmers by exempting them from the payment of irrigation service fees for water derived from national irrigation systems and communal irrigation systems that were and are funded, constructed, maintained and administered by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and other government agencies, including those turned over to irrigation systems.

Legarda also sponsored two important treaties ratified by the President--the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Senate concurred in the ratification of both treaties.

Legarda explained that AIIB membership brings in a host of benefits to the country such as additional source of financing to implement better and resilient infrastructure and to support rural and value chain development to increase agricultural and rural enterprise productivity and rural tourism of the country. It will also accelerate the Philippines' annual infrastructure spending to account for 5% of GDP, or even higher, and improve competitiveness through better infrastructure facilities that will attract investments into the country.

Meanwhile, the Paris Agreement allows the Philippines, which is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, access to international climate finance mechanisms and to acquire support from developed countries for adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building, among many other benefits.

The proposed Philippine Innovation Act and the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act, which Legarda principally authored, have been approved by the Senate but pending approval in the House of Representatives.

The proposed Philippine Innovation Act will help create an ecosystem that facilitates and supports innovation and entrepreneurial growth, in cooperation with all stakeholders, including academe and business. It highlights innovation as a key driver of productivity, competitiveness and sustainable growth.

The E-NIPAS Bill aims to secure the remaining protected areas in the country through strengthening access to funding and prosecution of prohibited acts. Through the measure, local communities and stakeholders will be able to do more to participate in the management and protection of our forests, oceans, flora, fauna and the indigenous peoples that reside in these sanctuaries.

For the 2nd regular session of the 17th Congress, Legarda said she will push for measures that would support the needs of the people and the programs of the administration, including the 2018 national budget, as she also continues to pursue her advocacies on climate and disaster resilience, environmental protection, sustainable development, arts and culture promotion, and heritage preservation.

"We will work on the approval of measures that would be felt by the people and we will make sure that the 2018 budget will be a budget for the people and for our nation's growth. We will also support programs that would help in the swift and complete rehabilitation of Marawi," Legarda concluded.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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