Velasco applauds house members, employees for keeping legislative mill running amid pandemic

BOAC, Marinduque — Notwithstanding the challenges posed by COVID-19, Marinduque Representative and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday said the 300-member House of Representatives has successfully kept the legislative mill running steadily and passed vital measures that are responsive to the needs of the people amid a raging pandemic.

Velasco said this achievement would not have been possible without the collective efforts of his colleagues, whom he thanked and lauded for their hard work and dedication in passing the much-needed legislation that will benefit the Filipino people during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We express our gratitude to the hardworking men and women of the House of Representatives for rising to the occasion to help our countrymen cope with the pandemic through the pieces of legislation that we have passed amid these trying times,” Velasco said, as the House adjourned for a six-week Lenten break.

He added: “There have been many challenges, as some of our colleagues and their staff caught COVID-19 in doing their work. Yet, the House of Representatives never wavered in its commitment to pass key legislative measures to help our country recover faster from this pandemic.”

The House will resume session on May 17.

On Thursday alone before adjourning, the House approved on third and final reading 45 national and local bills, including the proposed Promotion of Digital Payments Act, Rental Housing Subsidy Program Act, Freelance Workers Protection Act, Medical Reserve Corps Act, and law establishing evacuation centers in every city and municipality.

The legislative chamber also ratified the bicameral conference committee report on Velasco’s bill granting President Rodrigo Roa Duterte the power to suspend the scheduled increases in Social Security System contribution rates in times of national emergency, such as the COVID-19 crisis.

During the past five months, the House under Velasco’s leadership passed several bills that later became laws. These include the General Appropriations Act of 2021, Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, Financial Institution Strategic Transfer or FIST Act, and Amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

Last Feb. 26, President Duterte signed the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which was principally authored by Velasco in the lower chamber.

This landmark legislation was designed to fast-track the procurement and administration of the life-saving vaccine against the deadly coronavirus to a greater number of Filipinos.

Velasco said that while he was proud of the work the House did in the past months, “there is much more to do to help individuals, families and businesses recover from the pandemic.”
“Especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we will have to come together and work harder than ever for the Filipino people,” Velasco said.

To keep the legislative running amid the pandemic, the House, under Velasco’s instructions, has adopted measures to ensure the safety of those reporting for work at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.

Daily sanitation and strict adherence to minimum public health standards are imposed upon those entering the complex, while majority of the workforce are given work-from-home arrangements.
House members, workers and visitors are also required to undergo COVID-19 testing before they can be granted access to the offices inside the complex.

All those entering the House need to wear masks and face shields, pass through thermal scanners and disinfection machines, and observe physical distancing at all times.
Committee meetings and sessions are done via a hybrid of physical and remote hearings.

“With 300 members and more than 3,000 employees, it is quite a challenge to keep everyone safe,” Velasco said.

“We laud our Secretariat for doing its very best to minimize infection and giving our members and employees all that they need to cope with this pandemic.”

Velasco assured that the chamber will continue to “keep the legislative mill grinding despite the many challenges our society is facing.”

“We only have a little over a year in the 18th Congress, and we will do our very best to help the President fulfill his promises to the country and pass important laws to help our country rise above this pandemic,” Velasco added. —

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