Speaker Velasco has nothing but words of praise and gratitude for all House members and workers who exerted efforts to ensure that the legislature remained dynamic and productive despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

BOAC, Marinduque (PIA) — The House of Representatives, led by Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco, on Wednesday adjourned sine die the third and final session of the 18th Congress, leaving behind a good number of important legislation that would help the country navigate through and emerge stronger from the pandemic.

As the 18th Congress came to a close, Speaker Velasco has nothing but words of praise and gratitude for all House members and workers who exerted efforts to ensure that the legislature remained dynamic and productive despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

In his valedictory speech, Velasco thanked everyone who took part in building what he described as “One Congress,” which has delivered on its commitment to pass legislation that are responsive to the needs of Filipinos in these trying times.

“Allow me to thank each one of you for all the help and support, particularly to Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Minority Leader Caraps Paduano, for being my true partners in building this One Congress,” Velasco said.

The House chief also expressed his gratitude to the Deputy Speakers, Committee Chairpersons, Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza, the House Secretariat, congressional staff, and all auxiliaries.

“Despite the many challenges that happened during my tenure as your Speaker, we have risen and proven ourselves to be One Congress, ready to serve our people,” Velasco told his colleagues.

“One Congress, ready to scrutinize the national budget, to pass laws, to conduct hearings, to provide oversight on the implementation of laws, and to generally make it easier for the next Congress and its leadership, to continue the legislative work for the sake of our kababayans,” he added.

Velasco said the 18th Congress was “a key and steady partner of the Executive Department under President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in passing laws that promoted economic development, strengthened the administration of justice and the rule of law, enhanced the protection of labor and social welfare, improved the quality of and increased access to education and information, enhanced our health and emergency response system, and strengthened our political and governmental institutions.”

He noted that the pandemic forced the House leadership to be dynamic, innovative and proactive. “We implemented hybrid hearings and aggressive mass testing, and heightened health protocols to protect those attending the committee hearings and plenary deliberations,” Velasco said.

“We introduced environmentally-sustainable energy sources in the House and initiated technological innovations to our House security system,” he added.

“Despite the lingering threat of COVID-19, we approved much-needed emergency pandemic response measures, and despite some political challenges, managed to pass the 2021 and 2022 national budgets on time.”

Velasco said that all honor goes to House members, especially “senior members” who have worked doubly hard during these difficult times.

The Speaker also paid tribute to his nine colleagues who passed away while serving in the 18th Congress, saying they “served as our collective inspiration to continue our work for the people.” The nine are Representatives Resurreccion Acop (Antipolo City, 2nd District), Rodolfo Albano (LPGMA Partylist), Marissa Andaya (Camarines Sur, 1st District), Carlos Cojuangco (Tarlac, 1st District), Francisco Datol Jr. (SENIOR CITIZENS Partylist), Raul Del Mar (Cebu City, 1st District), Nestor Fongwan (Benguet), Marisol Panotes (Camarines Norte, 2nd District), and Ditas Ramos (Sorsogon, 2nd District).

In his speech, Velasco enumerated some of the vital pieces of legislation he labeled Tulong, Tatag, Tapang and Malasakit.

He said the 18th Congress passed key economic laws or “Tulong” bills that are expected to facilitate the country’s recovery from the pandemic, including the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Foreign Investments Act, and the Public Service Act.

According to Velasco, the passage of this trifecta of economic liberalization laws marks an important landmark meant to ease restrictions and will help bring in projected investment leads of $100 billion over a two-year period, and create more jobs for Filipinos that would help drive the country’s economic recovery.

Aside from the Bayanihan laws, Velasco said the outgoing Congress also passed several laws as our “Tugon” measures for the pandemic, such as the vaccine procurement law and the Streamlining Government Services in Times of National Emergency Act.

He said the best “Tugon’ for the pandemic remains the timely passage of the 2021 and 2022 national budgets, which would fund the pandemic-response programs of the national government.

The 18th Congress, he said, also passed other social and consumer protection laws such as Republic Act (RA) 11765, which gives more protection to consumers of financial services, and RA 11712, which grants mandatory continuing benefits to our healthcare frontliners.

Velasco said they also passed institution-building or what he called the “Tatag” bills including RA 11768, which seeks to strengthen the Sangguniang Kabataan; RA 11713, to support teacher education in the country; RA 11709, which creates fixed terms for key officers of the armed forces; and RA 11697, which paves the way for the development of electric vehicle industry in the country.

The House leader added that they have passed what he called “Malasakit” laws such as RA 11767, which seeks to promote the rights of foundlings or abandoned children; RA 11650 that would ensure inclusive education for learners with disabilities; and RA 11648 that seeks to provide stronger protection for children against sexual abuse and exploitation by raising the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16.

He likewise noted the enactment of laws that promote justice and peace, such as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, and RA 11696 or the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act.

“Dear colleagues and fellow Members, we are proud to say that we are leaving the 18th Congress in order. We have improved upon the past and will transition smoothly to the next Congress. We are One Congress,” Velasco said.

He continued: “We first came to these august chambers with hopeful eyes, with eagerness to serve our constituents, fortified by our faith, driven by our desire to serve and strengthened by our virtues.

“We shall leave the House of the People with hope for the future under the new President, with the satisfaction that we have given our best to serve our people, and trust that the House shall continue what we have started—with unreserved ‘tapang’ and ‘malasakit’.” (RAMJR/PIA-MIMAROPA)

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