Supporting country’s full recovery, sustainable future

Following the opening of the first regular session of the 19th Congress, I started the month of August by filing Senate resolutions on pressing matters that need immediate attention and action.

As the reelected chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, one of the first resolutions I filed was to direct the said committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the preparedness of the country to contain and suppress monkeypox.

Monkeypox has been declared by the World Health Organization on 23 July as a public health emergency of international concern — the highest alert level it can issue — after the number of confirmed infections worldwide had risen to 77 percent from late June through early July 2022. A few days thereafter, on 29 July, the Philippines confirmed its first detected case of monkeypox.

We are still reeling from the many adverse impacts of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. We cannot let yet another infectious disease overburden our health care system and derail the gains we have achieved toward recovery. Thus, I and Senator Robin Padilla, filed Senate Resolution 84 last Monday, 1 August, as it is the duty of our Congress to formulate institutional policies and measures to address public health emergencies.

Also together with Sen. Padilla, I filed Senate Resolution 86 on the same day to urge the Executive Department to immediately support the restoration of cultural heritage sites and national landmarks, which were damaged by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck northern Luzon last 27 July.

The two of us had earlier inspected some of the quake-hit areas and personally assisted over a thousand earthquake victims in Bangued and Lagangilang, Abra and Vigan City, Ilocos Sur. There, we had seen firsthand how the earthquake marred some of our beautiful cultural heritage sites and resources.

These historical edifices serve as constant reminders of an important era in our culture where we are reminded of our diverse and symbolic history. These sites are also major tourist attractions, generating income for the local people. Faster restoration of these sites will help ensure that people regain their livelihoods as soon as possible and, at the same time, preserve our culture and traditions.

Meanwhile, as a firm advocate of sports development in the country, I also filed last Monday a Senate Resolution, urging the Committee on Sports to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the ways to support our embattled Philippine men’s basketball team, Gilas Pilipinas. In the process, we aim to review the relevant laws and policies to ensure optimal performance in future international sports competitions and to protect the welfare of Filipino athletes.

Said resolution was also introduced by my fellow senators Mark Villar, Francis Tolentino, Alan Peter Cayetano and Senate Majority Floor Leader Joel Villanueva.

Avid Filipino Gilas fans like myself have clamored for the team to receive more support in order to improve their performance in international competitions. There is no time for us to be bogged down by criticisms. What we need now is unity and support for our national team, especially as we prepare for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which we will co-host with Japan and Indonesia from 25 August to 10 September 10 next year.

Be it on health, sports or other issues, cooperation and support are really critical for the success of our endeavors. In fact, through the support and collaborative efforts of our fellow lawmakers, several bills that I had authored or co-authored have been recently enacted into law.

These include RA 11927 or the “Philippine Digital Workforce Competitiveness Act,” which I co-authored to guarantee that the Filipino workforce benefits from the job prospects created by digital technologies.

Likewise, I am one of the authors of the measure which recently became RA 11901 that expands the agriculture, fisheries and rural development financing system.

Our farmers and fisherfolk play a crucial role in ensuring food security in our country; so, it is imperative for us to continue strengthening agricultural support systems and infrastructure. Through reforms to the existing structure of the financial system, our rural communities will also have greater access to credit, which will help improve their welfare, competitiveness, income and productivity.

Our indigent senior citizens will also now receive increased monthly pension allowance from P500 to P1,000 through RA 11916, which I co-authored. This is to better support their basic necessities and medical needs.

I was also one of the authors of RA 11897, declaring every second Thursday of January as the National Baptist Day; and co-sponsor of RA 11917, strengthening the regulation of our private security services industry. I pushed for both measures in recognition of the significant contributions of our Filipino Baptists and security guards in the country.

As always, I also continued providing support to our struggling Filipinos nationwide in the past week. We distributed aid to fire victims in Cebu province, including 31 families in Mandaue City, eight in Compostela; three in Cordova; and 12 individuals in Cebu City; and 27 families in Tayuman, Manila City.

We also delivered assistance to 2,500 struggling residents in San Fernando City and 1,000 in Candaba, Pampanga; 1,000 in San Manuel, and 1,000 in Pura, Tarlac; 1,000 in Maragondon, Cavite; 306 in Lupao, Nueva Ecija; and 2,543 in Cortes and in Buenavista, Bohol.

Finally, I personally visited and checked on the situation of pandemic-affected communities in Davao City. I spearheaded the relief efforts at the respective gymnasiums of Barangays Kapitan Tomas Monteverde, Agdao Proper and Paciano Bangoy, where 1,500 struggling residents received relief items, such as grocery packs, shirts, vitamins, masks and meals.

As we move forward, I hope we all take the opportunity to continue supporting one another and helping our fellow Filipinos not only for our full recovery but also for our sustainable future.

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