By Filane Mikee Cervantes

House of Representatives Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez (File photo)

MANILA – The House of Representatives made good on its promise to pass the 17 priority bills that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. requested Congress to pass in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the year ends, as Congress adjourned for the Christmas break on Wednesday.

In his remarks before adjourning the session, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez highlighted the timely approval of all the SONA bills, which would help sustain the country’s economic recovery and improve the living conditions of Filipinos.

“It is with great pride and honor to report to this august chamber that we passed all of these 17 SONA priority measures seven months ahead of the President’s next SONA in July 2024,” Romualdez said.

The House recognizes the “urgency and significance” of addressing the most pressing issues facing the nation, he said, noting that everyone has done his/her part in “actively participating in legislative discussions, building consensus, and advocating for the passage of these critical measures.”

“We, as the duly elected representatives of the Filipino people, have done our bounden duty to realize their aspirations by strengthening the economy, revitalizing businesses, and broadening the scope of services provided to the majority of our citizenry,” he said.

Romualdez said among the 17 SONA bills, the Automatic Income Classification of Local Government Units Act was signed into law (Republic Act 11964) by the President on Oct. 26.

“This particular measure is projected to promote greater local autonomy and enable our local government units to realize their full economic potential with higher financial capability and better fiscal position,” he said.

The Ease of Paying Taxes bill, which is expected to drive foreign direct investments and enhance the country’s competitiveness as an investment destination, has been sent to Marcos for his signature, he said.

Among the other priority measures that had been approved on final reading by the House were the amendments to the Fisheries Code, the excise tax on single-use plastics, the VAT on digital transactions, the Anti-Financial Accounts Scramming Act, the Philippine Immigration Act, Rationalization of Mining Fiscal Regime, Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension Reform Act, and amendments to the Anti-Agriculture Smuggling Law.

A day before adjourning, the House approved on the third and final reading the remaining SONA priority measures to complete the 17, six of which are identified priorities of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

The six LEDAC-SONA bills are the Department of Water Resources and Services and Creation of a Water Regulatory Commission, Tatak-Pinoy (Proudly Filipino) Act, Blue Economy Law, Government Auditing Code, Government Procurement Reform Act, and Amendment of the Cooperative Code.

The last SONA bill approved during Tuesday’s session was the proposed Motor Vehicle User’s Charge/Road User’s Tax.

Romualdez told members of his chamber that as they adjourn for the Christmas recess, they are ending “another year with remarkable accomplishments, owing to the collective efforts and commendable dedication of all of you.”

“I attribute the high level of legislative performance to the unity in aspirations and unselfish cooperation of the individual member of the House of Representatives. Despite our differences in opinions and beliefs, we worked together to champion the cause of good governance in fulfillment of our duty to serve the highest interest of the Filipino people,” he said. (PNA)