Press Release
July 26, 2015

Economic reforms, peace, better services top
 Senate agenda as 3rd Regular Session opens

The third and last session of the 16th Congress opens on Monday with both Houses pledging to work on a range of measures which would lead the country towards attaining economic prosperity, peace and uplifting the life of every Filipino, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said.

Drilon said that as agreed upon with the leadership of the House of Representatives, many bills on the Congress' priority list are economic reform measures that seek to bring in more investments to the country and help generate more jobs opportunities for Filipinos.

"To help strengthen the country's economic fundamentals and invite more private participation to infrastructure development, we would work on the proposed Public-Private Partnership Act and the amendments to the Acquisition of Right-of-Way Act to speed up the process for government infrastructure projects" Drilon said.

"We would also push the passage into law of the Customs and Tariff Modernization Act and the Tax Incentives Monitoring and Transparency Act, to enhance trade and commerce and further transform our country into a more lucrative venue for foreign investments," he added, noting that these measures were already in the advanced stage of legislation.

At the same time, Drilon said that the Senate would also focus on key reforms on the delivery of public services - such as the bill establishing a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to develop ICT systems and enhance communication services, and the PAGASA Modernization Act, which would equip the national weather bureau with state of the art equipment and facilities.

Drilon said that both houses of Congress are committed to enact into law more pro-education bills, like the proposed Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act, which would pave the way for wider scholarships and student loans for college students. Both chambers are expected to ratify the reconciled version of the UniFAST bill later this week.

The Senate leader also assured the public of the timely passage of the national budget: "We would pass the 2016 General Appropriations Act on schedule as we have done consistently under this administration, to ensure the continuous flow of funds for vital government programs and projects."

Drilon likewise stressed that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which seeks to put an end to the decades-long conflict in Mindanao and replace the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a new administrative structure, remains a priority measure of the Senate, assuring that the Senate would "exert every effort to ensure that the BBL will be consistent with the Constitution."

The Senate chief then concluded that there are about 16 other measures which are part of the Senate's legislative agenda. These include, among others, the amendments to the Revised Penal Code, the Magna Carta of the Poor, the National Identification System Act, the Prepaid SIM Card Registration Act, and the No Call and No Text Registration Act.

On Monday, Drilon will lead senators to the House of Representatives for a joint session of Congress to hear President Benigno Aquino III's last State of the Nation Address (SONA) after the Senate convenes in the morning.

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