MANILA Leyte representative-elect Martin Romualdez has personally assured President Rodrigo R. Duterte of a united" House of Representatives that will expedite the passage of all the Chief Executive's priority bills, especially the 2020 national budget, and address the funding requirement of his flagship projects, including the ambitious Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.
Romualdez made the assurance Wednesday during a private dinner with the President and senator-elect Christopher Lawrence Bong Go shortly after they attended the 122nd-anniversary celebration of the Presidential Security Group in MalacaAang.
I took the opportunity to report to him what was discussed and agreed upon earlier by the multi-party caucus. I assured him of a united House of Representatives, Romualdez told reporters Thursday.
I also told the President that my fellow congressmen, even before Congress opens a session on July 22, have begun working on the measures that needed to be discussed ASAP, he said.
The president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) was referring to the multi-party caucus, which he called Wednesday morning to discuss what congressional leaders from all political parties and influential blocs want to be prioritized in the 18th Congress.
The assembly, the first of a series of caucuses, drew the attendance of 40 congressional leaders representing PDP-Laban, Lakas-CMD, National Unity Party, Nacionalista Party, Liberal Party, and the Party-List Coalition.
The congressional leaders were unanimous in saying that the 18th Congress will be a real working partner of President Duterte and the Executive Department. All vowed to work double-time to shepherd the approval of the President's legislative agenda, Romualdez said.
In his report to the President, Romualdez said the approval of the proposed 2020 national budget before the end of the year remains on top of the 18th Congress' priority list.
He said House leaders have agreed on a self-imposed deadline in approving the 2020 National Expenditure Program by October.
I informed the President that House leaders have already established a reliable communication line with Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez and other economic managers to ensure that the 2020 national budget will be approved before the end of the year, Romualdez said.
The 18th Congress will also ensure that the budget will be as fair and as equitable as the President mandates, he added.
During Wednesday's meeting, Romualdez said he also briefed Duterte about his earlier meeting with Public Works Secretary Mark Villar and acting Budget Secretary Janet Abuel where the lawmaker relayed the commitment of Congress leaders to work on the funding for the President's flagship infrastructure program.
The congressmen have agreed to set aside politics and pool their resources to provide adequate funding for the President's pet programs and projects that have a direct impact on our people's lives. This includes the ambitious 'Build, Build, Build' Program, which the President wants to be completed and set in place before the end of his term in 2022, he added.
Of the 75 projects under the "Build, Build, Build" Program, at least 28 have been identified as ready for completion before the end of the President's term in 2022.
Romualdez said his fellow congressmen are in full support of the President's "Build, Build, Build" Program, as they know well that the program will help develop industries that will yield robust growth, create jobs, and improve the lives of Filipinos.
The big challenge for the next Congress, therefore, is how to ensure that a multi-year appropriation is in place for the rest of the President's flagship projects, he said.
Upon assumption in office in 2016, Duterte promised to build PHP8 trillion in new infrastructure, including Metro Manila's first-ever subway, which broke ground last March.
Other key infrastructure projects under the BBB are six airports, nine railways, three bus rapid transits, 32 networks of roads and bridges, and four seaports that will help bring down the costs of production, improve rural incomes, encourage countryside investments, make the movement of goods and people more efficient, and create more jobs.
The government also aims to construct four energy facilities that will ensure a stable power supply at lower prices; 10 water resource projects, as well as irrigation systems that will raise agricultural output; five flood control facilities that will help protect vulnerable communities, as well as boost their resilience against the impact of climate change; and three redevelopment programs that will deliver sustainable solutions to best meet the needs of urban population.
Meanwhile, Romualdez said other important items that will be tackled from Day One by the 18th Congress include several priority measures that were taken up in the third regular session of the 17th Congress but were not passed due to lack of time.
These include the Coco Levy Act, National Land Use Act, the Department of Disaster and Resilience, the TRABAHO Bill (TRAIN 2), Excise Tax on Alcohol Products, reforms on real property valuation, federalism, and the mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps.
These are the items that we want to revisit and move forward with, along with the separate and specific advocacies of each lawmaker. We only have very few weeks left, and we want to hit the ground running, Romualdez said. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency