Two bills meant to better the lives of Filipinos have received special attention from President Rodrigo Duterte. On Wednesday, President Duterte certified the passage of the Universal Health Care (UHC) and the Rice Tarrification bills as urgent.
The certification for both bills were contained in letters written by the President dated October 10 and addressed to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.
Malacañang has released copies of the certification to the press.
“Pursuant to the provision of Article VI, Section 26 (2) of the 1987 Constitution, I hereby certify to the necessity of the immediate enactment of Senate Bill No. 1896,” Duterte’s letters to Arroyo and Sotto read.
Senate Bill No. 1896 is “An Act Instituting Universal Health Care for All Filipinos, Prescribing Reforms in the Health Care System, Appropriating Funds Therefor, and for the Other Purpose.”
Duterte writes that the bill is intended to provide for the urgent need of many Filipinos for an affordable, comprehensive, accessible and quality health care program. The measure, which was approved by the Senate before Duterte’s certification came, would automatically enroll all Filipinos, including Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), into the PhilHealth program. All Filipinos will enjoy the benefits of the healthcare program, whether they are direct contributing members with the capacity to pay for the service’s premiums, or as indirect contributors who are sponsored by the government (such as indigents, senior citizens, and other disenfranchised communities).
The premium subsidy for indirect contributors shall be included in the annual budget in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Besides the universal coverage, the PhilHealth program will be expanded to include more services and provide more comprehensive health care, such as offering free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services.
Also in the letters is President Duterte’s certification of the Rice Tariffication Bill as urgent. This came a day after Duterte approved the unimpeded importation of rice, another measure to ease pressure on the struggling supply and rising inflation.
“Pursuant to the provisions of Article VI, Section 26 (2) of the 1987 Constitution, I hereby certify to the necessity of the immediate enactment of Senate Bill No. 1998,” read the letter.
Senate Bill No. 1998 is entitled: “An Act Replacing the Quantitative Import Restrictions on Rice with Tariffs, Lifting the Quantitative Export Restrictions on Rice, and Creating the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act. No. 8178, as Amended by Republic Act No. 9496 and as further Amended by Republic Act No. 10848, and for Other Purposes.”
The bill, Duterte says, is a measure meant to address the current situation of rice availability in the country. The bill is urgent as its approval would mean preventing artificial rice shortages, reducing current market prices, and curtailing the widespread corruption and cartel domination plaguing the rice industry.