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Nationwide round-up (12/16/20)

House to vaccinate own workers

THE House of Representatives will allot at least P50 million for the vaccination of more than 2,000 workers and accredited journalists covering the chamber against the coronavirus, Speaker Lord Allan Q. Velasco said on Wednesday.

Five immediate family members of House employees and accredited media will be included in the House’s mass vaccination program, he told reporters in a Viber group message.

“This is for the normalcy of business,” he said. “We just want the legislative mill to be grinding.” Mr. Velasco said the House would most probably get the vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. or British manufacturer AstraZeneca Plc.

Lawmakers would not be prioritized in the vaccination drive, Mr. Velasco said, adding that only the “remaining doses” would be used for them.

Funding would come from the House’s internal budget for next year.

Data from the House showed that 191 people, including lawmakers and staff, have been infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus.

The government lists employees of agencies and local government units as the seventh group that would be prioritized for the mass vaccination, after health workers, senior citizens, the poor, uniformed personnel and school workers. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

OFW bill will have to wait

SENATE action on a proposed Department of Overseas Filipinos will be tackled in January, a Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said on Wednesday.

He told reporters it would be impossible to take up the measure because the chamber is set to adjourn for a month-long break until Jan. 17.

This comes after President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday certified Senate Bill 1949, which seeks to create the agency, as urgent.

The bill will streamline government response to concerns of migrant Filipino workers and their families. It will also assume functions of the Labor department and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) relating to migrant workers. The measure is being pushed in the chamber after the coronavirus pandemic led to the displacement of Filipino workers overseas.

In its last count, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported that more than 300,000 Filipinos have come home since February.

The Senate labor committee headed by Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva deferred hearings on the bill over bureaucracy issues.

Senator Franklin M. Drilon earlier said the government rightsizing bill should first be tackled to address the bloated bureaucracy. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Bill on disaster budgets passed

A HOUSE of Representatives committee on Wednesday endorsed a bill that seeks to extend the validity of appropriations for projects meant to ease the effects of disasters.

The House disaster resilience committee approved House Bill 8076, which will authorize the President to extend the validity to as long as two years.

This will ensure that recovery programs during national emergencies will get the budgets they need.

The bill described a national emergency as any event that threatens national security.

Projects must be awarded after a competitive public bidding, according to a copy of the bill.

No project should be implemented through a negotiated contract “except those authorized by the President to respond to a national emergency subject to rules and conditions.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Ambassador appointments OK’d

THE COMMISSION on Appointments (CA) confirmed the appointment of two Philippine ambassadors on Wednesday.

The body during a session confirmed the nomination of Leslie J. Baja as the Philippine ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco and of Raymond R. Balatbat as the Philippine ambassador to Lebanon.

Mr. Baja also has concurrent jurisdiction over the Republic of Guinea, Republic of Mali, Islamic Republic of Mauritania and Republic of Senegal.

Aside from the two envoys, the appointment body also approved the ad interim appointment of Leandro Luiz S. Manantan as a foreign service officer. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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