Senate adjourns for summer break

MANILA — The Senate adjourned Wednesday night with nine bills passed and 42 resolutions adopted in 10 weeks’ worth of legislative work.

Senate Pres. Aquilino Pimentel III said that among the important bills passed include the Affordable Higher Education for All Act (SBN 1304) and the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act (SBN 1277).

The Affordable Higher Education act will provide tuition subsidy and financial assistance to students enrolled in state universities and colleges, private higher education institutions, and technical vocational institutions while Free Internet Access in Public Places Act will mandate the construction of infrastructure and equipment to give Filipinos free internet access in public places.

Also passed was the Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2017 (SBN 1305), which would increase the maternity leave available for working mothers from 60 to 120 days and an act that designates the Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief and the Director and Deputy-Director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) as the authority to administer oath and to issue subpoena duces tecum (SBN 1239).

The Senate also approved the Philippine Food Technology Act of 2016 (SSBN 1269), which would provide for the registration, licensure, and practice of food technology in the Philippines; and the proposed Speech Language Pathology Act of 2016 (SBN 462) which would regulate the practice of speech language pathology in the Philippines.

It also granted franchise extensions to Smart Communications Inc. (HBN 4637) and GMA Network Inc. (HBN 4631) for another 25 years and declared August 25 of every year as “National Technical-Vocational Day,” to promote technical and vocational education and training in the country through SBN 209.

Meanwhile, resolutions adopted were the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Philippine-Japan Agreement on Social Security and the Paris Agreement.

During the resumption of the Senate on May 2, Pimentel said that next in store is to hear measures on the proposed shift to federal form of government, which is among the priorities of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.

The Senate will also prioritize bills meant to end contractualization, impose stiffer penalties to violators of minimum wage laws, implement a “one-town, one doctor” policy, and enable free irrigation services.

Pimentel said that proposed income tax reform will likewise be a high priority of the Senate, with personal income tax relief as his “personal advocacy.”

He said that he is already “very eager” to resume its work, with at least 20 bills already in advanced stages of legislation, such as the proposed People’s Freedom of Information Act of 2016 (SBN 1208), the proposed Expanded Anti-Wire Tapping Act of 2016 (SBN 1210), the proposed amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (SBN 1256), the proposed Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act (SBN 1284), the proposed Corporation Code of the Philippines (SBN 1280), the proposed Ease of Doing Business Act of 2017 (SBN 1311), the proposed Teachers’ Supply Allowance Act of 2016 (SBN 812), the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act (SBN 1233), the proposed Pagkaing Pinoy Para sa Batang Pinoy Act (SBN 1279), and the bill increasing the penalties for the refusal of hospitals and medical clinics to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support to emergency or serious cases (SBN 1353).

He vowed that the Senate would focus on reforms meant to help the most vulnerable sectors of the society.