THE Senate on Monday voted on third and final reading to approve five key national bills and a dozen measures of local application, following a commitment made by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri to approve at least four priority measures before Congress goes on recess on September 27.
The chamber approved the Internet Transactions Act, the PPP (Public-Private Partnerships) bill, Ease of Paying Taxes Act, and the New Philippine Passport Act. See related story in B3, Banking.
The Senate also approved on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 2028, expanding the coverage of the Centenarians Act of 2016 which currently grants P100,000 to those who reach the age of 100, by allowing them to draw down pro-rated funding earlier, when they reach 80 and 90 years old.
Over the weekend, Zubiri had reported that the Senate approved last week these bills of national application on second reading: Senate Bill No. 2001 or the New Philippine Passport Act; SB 2224 or the Ease of Paying Taxes Act; SB 2028 or An Act Recognizing the Octogenarians, Nonagenarians, and Centenarians; and SB 2233 or the Public Private Partnership Act.
Only Minority Leader Koko Pimentel cast the dissenting vote on the Internet Transactions Act (ITA), a measure that had been filed first in the 18th Congress, and which was sponsored by Sen. Mark A. Villar in the current Senate.
Pimentel called an “unfortunate turn of events” that the Senate yet again is trifling with the strict constitutional provision on presidential certifications, limiting such only for measures that respond to a public emergency or calamity. While the ITA is a laudable measure – to protect both consumers and merchants transacting on the internet — not even a “wild imagination” would suffice to cast it as a measure responding to an emergency or calamity, said Pimentel.
The outnumbered Pimentel in his motion to stop the third reading vote on the same day as the second reading – the same stand he took in opposing the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) a few weeks ago.
Main sponsors of the approved measure thanked their peers and all stakeholders who helped in crafting a good final version: Sen. JV Ejercito for the PPP Act, Villar for the ITA, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian for the Ease of Paying Taxes bill.
Gatchalian said migrant workers and senior citizens will soon have the chance to renew their passports virtually with Senate clearance of the New Philippine Passport Act.
One of President Marcos’ priority measures, the proposed legislation authorizes the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to allow senior citizens and migrant workers to renew their passports virtually, without having to go to any Consular Affairs office, said Gatchalian, the bill’s co-author.
As for the expanded centenarians law, mainly sponsored by Sen. Imee Marcos, elderly Filipinos reaching the age of 80 and 90 will soon have the chance to enjoy benefits earlier: a cash gift of P10,000 and P20,000, respectively, as the Senate approved on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 2028. The bill seeks to expand the coverage of the Centenarians Act of 2016 which currently grants P100,000 to those who reach the age of 100.
Under the present law, only those who reach the age of 100 enjoy the benefit of the P100,000 cash gift. The proposed measure stipulates that beneficiaries are eligible to receive their cash gifts within one year from reaching the ages of 80, 90, and 100.
Living to reach 80, 90, or even a hundred years has become a rarity, thus not too many Filipinos enjoy the benefits afforded by the Act Recognizing The Octogenarians, Nonagenarians, And Centenarians, said Gatchalian.
Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data counted 7.5 million senior citizens in the country in 2015 and around 10 percent or around 790,000 are estimated to be aged 80 to 90 years old.