The House of Representatives will prioritize the passage of revenue measures and bills creating three departments when Congress reconvenes next week after its Christmas recess, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said during the weekend.
“We already have good laws like those that provide for universal health care or free PhilHealth insurance coverage for all Filipinos and free college education. We also have the massive Build, Build, Build infrastructure program. We have to fund these with taxes,” Cayetano said.
The House committee on ways and means earlier endorsed the approval of at least four revenue measures, including imposing a five-percent license fee on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOs and an income tax on their foreign workers.
Cayetano said President Rodrigo Duterte’s order for the repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq highlighted the need for the creation of the proposed Department of Overseas Filipino Workers.
He said the long-term solution to problems affecting millions of OFWs and Filipinos abroad was the formation of the proposed new agency.
“Even if we have a hardworking secretary of foreign affairs and an equally hardworking secretary of labor, they have other tasks. Secretary Roy Cimatu (of Environment and Natural Resources) may be an expert on Middle East, but he, too has other jobs. So what is important is for the nation to have a full-time secretary whose only job is to attend to the welfare and concern of OFWs,” he added.
As for the problem of water distribution in Metro Manila and neighboring areas, Cayetano said he supports the President’s decision for the government to have a new contract with water distributors Maynilad Water Services and Manila Water.
“I am thankful that the two water concessionaires have already declared they are willing to talk, they are willing to look at it. So we hope the new contract could come out in the first quarter of this year. The earlier we can resolve it, the better for consumers,” he said.
The President wants “onerous” provisions in the existing agreements with Maynilad and Manila Water to be taken out.
Cayetano said he does not think Duterte’s order for the scrapping of those provisions would affect the investment climate in the country.
He said the planned creation of a Department of Water Resources could be the long-term solution to the water supply-distribution crisis.
In a related development, Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera echoed the House leadership’s position when it lauded President Duterte for demonstrating the political will to correct the onerous provisions of the agreements.
“As the President has stated, the time of reckoning has come for the two water concessionaires. We have been saying all along that the agreements are disadvantageous to the Filipino consumers,” Herrera said.