The Senate of the Philippines on Monday opened the second regular session of the 18th Congress with 17 senators physically present at the plenary, and six senators joining online.
Present at the session hall were Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senators Sonny Angara, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Francis Tolentino, Ronald dela Rosa, Panfilo Lacson, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Pia Cayetano, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, and Risa Hontiveros.
On the other hand, virtually present were Senators Cynthia Villar, Manny Pacquaio, Imee Marcos, Aquilino Pimentel III, Richard Gordon, and Francis Pangilinan.
Sotto said the Senate opened the second regular session of the 18th Congress “with a sense of urgency and a purpose” as the nation continues to grapple with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
He vowed that the Senate will continue to work towards saving lives and easing the people’s common anxiety by crafting adequate legislation to this major challenge in our lives.
“Always remember that the Senate is here for all Filipinos. I speak for all the senators when I say that in the 2nd regular session, your legislators will be proposing laws that will answer the question of how can we make the situation better for every Filipino,” Sotto said in his opening message.
As Senate President, Sotto said he would be very willing to lead his colleagues to craft a holistic agenda that will focus on the following legislative concerns: digital landscape, distance learning, public transport system, encouraging new business, and support for the arts.
“For as long as the pandemic remains uncontrolled, there will be a need to upgrade and improve the digital highway in support of various communications and online transactional needs,” he said.
He said legislators also need to support programs that will help the education sector migrate to more plausible learning platforms.
“As we stay isolated, we must not neglect a generation of young people who would otherwise be deprived of advancing in their studies,” Sotto said.
To revive the economy, he said it is also imperative that the country has a safe, efficient, and dependable public transport system that will ferry workers in order for industries to again produce goods and services, and people can resume earning incomes to spend.
With the market economy fundamentally changed by the pandemic, Sotto said the government can help entrepreneurs find their place in the emerging business landscape by reassessing tariffs to ease business burdens where appropriate, as well as providing the means for new ventures to flourish.
As for the support for the arts, he said the nation must be rebuilt in both body and soul.
“Great civilizations before us endured not only because they had material wealth, but because they lived a life nurtured by writers and artists… For what good will we be if we survive all these but lose our soul,” he said.
“It is my hope that the senate helps this nation emerge from the chaos of the pandemic with its heart and mind intact,” Sotto added.
Sotto however admitted that the Senate’s work would not be easy, urging the public to work in every possible way with the government, in the same way, that the government promises to work with the people.
“Since we are all affected, the resolution of the problem must reside in each and every one of us. In this moment of crisis, our survival depends on how strong we fight this crisis together. All of us must pledge commitment to survive this crisis, not only individually with our families, but more importantly, together as a nation,” he said.
“Tayo ay magka-isa dahil sa pagkaka-isa lang tayo magwawagi (We must be united for only in unity will we succeed),” Sotto said. (PNA)