(PHILSTAR) MANILA, Philippines — As COVID-19 infections continue, the Senate will prioritize the passage of a measure creating a Center for Disease Control, Virology Institute, which is gaining support from more senators, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
“I think the (passage of) Virology Institute, which we discussed in a caucus, will have no problem,” Zubiri said in an interview.
Zubiri, Senators Loren Legarda, Jinggoy Estrada, Pia Cayetano and Francis Escudero were authors of four bills on CDC still pending before the Senate.
“On top of mind, of course, the national budget. Our priority is the national budget. And we’re looking at non-contentious measures like the CDC, Center for Disease Control, Virology Institute… it’s OK,” the Senate President added.
In her bill, Legarda said the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the health care system of the Philippines, including lack of public access to health care facilities, as well as incapacity to respond to fragile settings.
“Time is of the essence that an independent and competent National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must exist,” he said.
Zubiri noted other priority bills like the e-commerce law, the national rightsizing program, the budget modernization bill, the e-government act, the e-governance act and the establishment of a medical reserve corps and a department of water resources would likely entail long and intricate discussions.
Zubiri admitted that the chamber has to prioritize the passage of the P5.268-trillion proposed national budget for 2023.
“Remember that we will have a problem at the committee level for the passage of these bills because we’re going to go on budget hearings in plenary. And for two weeks, plenary sessions will be dedicated to our national budget and the passage of different measures during the two weeks will be delayed,” he explained.
“From Nov. 7 to Dec. 16, we have about five weeks. Of the five weeks, two weeks would be dedicated to the passage of the budget, the GAA, in plenary. So technically we’ll only have three weeks to pass some measures,” Zubiri noted.
“Of course, we’re looking at the national rightsizing program, it’s (the debate) quite bloody, budget modernization bill, it’s also quite bloody, the e-government act and e-governance act, the debate at the committee level will be longer,” he said.
He stressed it’s up to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the committee on ways and means, to initiate discussions on valuation reform, tax package 3 and tax package 4, and the passive income and intermediary taxation act or PIFITA.