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House returns to session, prepares for campaign season

January 16, 2022 - Sunday 8:01 PM by Cyrelle Nuñez

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The House of Representatives will return to session Monday, Jan. 17 and set to adjourn on Feb. 5 for the commencement of the campaign period.
Session will resume with strict health and safety protocols in place amid the threat of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco confirmed that only 20 percent of the workforce in each department and office in the House will be allowed to report for work starting Monday.
He said protocols are necessary to protect House members and employees.
“This is not the time to be complacent. We needed to step up our health and safety protocols in the House so we could keep the legislative mill running even in the midst of what has been described as the worst surge in COVID-19 cases in the country,” Velasco said.
The House will adjourn for the commencement of the campaign season for nationally-elected seats on Feb. 8, when it resumes session on Monday.
“We only have three weeks or nine session days to finish some priority measures before we adjourn for the election period,” Velasco said.
He said the chamber is expected to pass on third and final reading HB 10582 or the proposed Rural Financial Inclusion and Literacy Act, which seeks to uplift the lives of the marginalized sectors—small farmers, fisherfolk and informal workers—by addressing the huge gap in reaching financial inclusivity.
Also up for final reading is House Bill (HB) 10579, which aims to strengthen the field offices of the Commission on Elections by upgrading and creating certain positions, amending for the purpose Section 53 of Batas Pambansa 881 or the Omnibus Election Code, as amended, and providing funds therefor.
The House chief said concerned committees will be working to finalize the proposed Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers and the National Housing Development Act, as well as the bill assigning health workers in every barangay across the country.
Velasco also urged the Senate to act on at least a dozen bills that had already passed the House on final reading.
These include the proposed Internet Transactions Act and the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises or GUIDE Act; the bills creating the Medical Reserve Corps, Philippine Virology Institute, and Center for Disease Prevention and Control; hiring of mental health professionals in basic education; increasing social pension of indigent senior citizens; and strengthening data privacy protection.
“We urge the Senate to expedite the deliberations and approval of these measures so we can pass them into law before the campaign period,” Velasco said.
The House is likely to accelerate the installation of the HousePass System after a two-week lockdown, but plenary sessions will continue to be held in a hybrid format.
Under the HousePass system, a health and safety officer (HSO) assigned to each department and office can nominate staff members who will be reporting for work on a daily basis. These personnel can then fill out online a digital copy of their health declaration form and, after which, will be assigned a QR code.
The code will then be scanned upon entering the buildings at the Batasang Pambansa complex. Only authorized persons, as nominated by HSOs, will be allowed inside the premises.
Furthermore, an antigen test will be administered to those physically reporting for work at the start of every week. 
According to the Department of Health's new guidelines, those who have symptoms or have obtained a positive test result should see a doctor and self-isolate for at least 7 days.
The meetings will take place from Monday through Wednesday, with only a small number of House members and Secretariat staff physically present. The remaining legislators will participate in the meeting via videoconference.
All committee meetings, public hearings and events in the House shall be conducted via videoconferencing platforms.

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