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Koko sees okay of free internet access, six key bills this year


Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said Congress is expected to approve this year the bill on free internet access in all public places and six other key priority measures when it resumes session after the Lenten recess in May.

He said the Senate had already approved the seven priority bills on third reading and sent them to the House of Representatives (HOR) for concurrence to provide, among others, full tuition subsidy for college and university students and those in technical-vocational schools, both private and public.

Pimentel said both the Senate and the HOR had also passed the bills extending the GMA Network, Inc. Franchise and the Smart Communications, Inc. Franchise for 25 more years.

“I am confident the House would easily accomplish its mission,” said Pimentel, president of the administration party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP LABAN) whose “super majority” in the House gives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez an easy job to harness support for priority measures.

Pimentel said the Senate has likewise approved the country’s accession to the Paris Agreement on climate change and ratified both the social security pact with Japan and membership in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

He said poor students would soon avail of full tuition subsidy in state universities and colleges and private higher education and technical-vocational schools as the proposed Free Higher Education Act hurdled third reading in the Senate.

Also approved on final reading, he said, were the Philippine Food Technology Act for the registration, licensure and practice of food technology and the proposed Philippine National Police reorganization to allow the PNP Chief and the CIDG to administer oath and issue subpoena duces tecum.

Pimentel said the proposed Speech Language Pathology Act was also passed on third reading to regulate the practice of speech language pathology and the Expanded Maternity Leave Law to give 120 days of maternity leave for female workers in government service and the private sector.

Every 25th day of November, he said, would soon be declared National Technical Vocational Day after the Senate passed the proposed measure on third reading and sent it to the HOR for concurrence.

He said a total of 39 priority measures plus the proposed amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) were tackled by the Senate, including the proposed emergency powers to be granted to the President to address transportation and traffic congestion crises in Metro Manila and other key cities.

The Senate, he said, also passed on second reading the proposed Philippine Mental Health Act to promote mental health, promulgate a national mental health policy towards the enhancement of integrated mental health services and the promotion and protection of persons utilizing mental health services, and establish a Philippine Mental Health Council.

Scheduled for second reading are bills on Free School Feeding/Pagkaing Pinoy Para sa Batang Pinoy, Amendments to Republic Act No. 9160 or the AMLA, Corporation Code of the Philippines, Coconut Farmers and Industry Development, Revised Penal Code, Ease of Doing Business/Fast Business Permit, Refusal of Hospital and Medical Clinics to Administer Medical Treatment in Emergency Case, Traffic Congestion Crisis, Anti-Discrimination, and Amendments to the Social Security law.

Set for plenary discussion are the Philippine Passport Act, Estate Tax Reform Act, Enhanced Universal Healthcare Act, Free Irrigation Services Act, Agrarian and Agricultural Credit Condonation Act, Extension of Driver’s License Validity Act, One Town: One Doctor Act, Income Tax Reform Act, Wage Rationalization Act;

Occupational Safety and Health Standards Acts, Community Service in Lieu of Imprisonment for the Penalty of Arresto Menor Act, Family Code of the Philippines Amendments; Public Service Act Amendments, Department of Housing and Urban Development Act; Allowable/Recoverable System Loss Act, Expand Coverage of Local Absentee Voting Act;

Salary Standardization Law IV; Government Procurement Reform Act Amendments, Revision of the Constitution, National ID System, Criminal Investigation Act, Amendment of Fair Election Act, End of Endo/Contractualization Act, Anti-Hazing Law Amendments, and the Unified Uniformed Personnel Retirement benefits and Pension Reform Act. (PR)

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