House to prioritize defense bill as Congress reopens

House to prioritize defense bill as Congress reopens

THE HOUSE of Representatives would prioritize a bill that seeks to develop the Philippines’ defense industry, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said on Sunday, as Congress resumes regular sessions this week.

“We are almost done with the priority bills agreed upon by Congress and the Executive branch,” he said in a statement. “We have approved on final reading all but four of the 57 measures on the LEDAC (Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council) list.”

Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment on the Senate’s legislative plans. Congress will resume regular sessions on Monday after a month-long holiday break.

House Bill 9713, which seeks to create a “self-reliant defense posture program” and promote the Philippines’ defense industry, was approved on second reading on Dec. 12. The Senate passed on final reading its counterpart bill in December.

Mr. Romualdez said the measure seeks to lessen Philippine dependence on foreign allies and suppliers for its defense needs.

“Our country, as a matter of national survival, cannot totally rely on the supplied armaments of other countries,” Iloilo Rep. Raul C. Tupas, who heads the House defense committee, said in December. “We need to develop our manufacturing capabilities and utilize to the fullest our natural resources to meet the country’s defense needs.” 

The House has yet to approve three other measures under the LEDAC, including changes to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, which is being fine-tuned by a technical working group. The other two are bills on budget modernization and a proposed National Defense Act that will strengthen the Defense department.

The chamber will also approve on third and final reading House Bill 9571 or the proposed Chemical Weapons Prohibition Act.

Mr. Romualdez also said lawmakers would also tackle at a bicameral conference committee changes to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act and a proposed Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System Act.

“We will await Senate action on proposed laws that we have approved on third and final reading, and we will be ready to sit with senators in bicameral conferences to come up with the final versions,” he added. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz