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Bills on Virology Institute, Maharlika Fund among Senate's priorities in 2023

December 30 ------ Bills creating the Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) as well as the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) are among the Senate's top legislative agenda in 2023, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said.

"In 2023, we foresee the Senate taking up the priority measures of the administration such as the establishment of the Virology Institute, Medical Reserve Corps, and the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control," Villanueva said in a text message to reporters. "The move for the condonation of agrarian reform payments, as well as the House bill on the Maharlika Investment Fund are also on top of the legislative agenda," he added.

The bills establishing the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the VIP are part of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s legislative priorities. But in a privilege speech in early December, Senator Pia Cayetano asked the direction of the administration in the creation of the CDC and the VIP, as she presented before her colleagues the positions of the resource persons during the hearing on the bills creating the said agency.

During the hearing in November that Cayetano presided over, a Department of Health official said the existing Research Institute for Tropical Medicine will be absorbed into the new government agency if the bill creating the CDC is enacted into law. Cayetano raised in her privilege speech the possibility to just amend the mandate of the RITM rather than creating new agencies, considering the rightsizing policy and the funding capability of the government. Meanwhile, the Senate has yet to tackle any measure for the creation of the MIF, as there is no counterpart bill that was filed by senators. The House of Representatives' version, on the other hand, has yet to be transmitted to the Senate.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said the Senate might start the deliberations on the MIF bill by the middle of February next year. He also said the Senate will await for the House of Representatives' version of the measure. The House of Representatives passed the MIF bill on third and final reading last December 15.

Aside from the administration's priority bills, Villanueva said he will also push for the bill institutionalizing the National Employment Recovery Strategy. "As chair of the subcommittee on Senate Bill No. 129 or the Trabaho Para sa Lahat ng Pilipino Bill, we are also prioritizing the institutionalization of the National Employment Recovery Strategy, which is something the President himself also sees as an urgent measure to be passed during our LEDAC meeting," he said.

Both Houses of Congress are currently on break for the holidays. Sessions will resume on January 23, 2023.



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