House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez (File photo)

MANILA – House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez underscored on Sunday the urgency of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) amid the high cost of electricity and fuel, even as he vowed to prioritize digital transformation bills when sessions resume Monday.

Romualdez, Leyte’s 1st District representative, told Manila-based reporters in Zurich, Switzerland that Filipinos need immediate relief from the high cost of living.

"Filipinos cannot wait. We have to bring down the cost of electricity, the cost of power, the cost of oil," he said in a statement before the end of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s trip to the 2023 World Economic Forum (WEF).

Romualdez expressed the need to bring in not just infrastructure but also developmental and agricultural projects.

“We have to make sure there’s food security. We cannot wait," he reiterated.

"We passed it in the House. With all due respect, it’s been already filed in the Senate. For all those senators who may have their contrary thoughts, just read the bill and deliberate it in the Senate and let’s take it from there," he said.

Romualdez also brought up concerns about "digital transformation bills", saying the House of Representatives should include them in its top priorities.

Measures that would hasten the country’s digital transformation such as the E-Governance/Government Act are on top of lawmakers' priority list when Congress resumes session, he said.

“We will expedite the passage of these measures to implement the pronouncements of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Davos, Switzerland on his desire for the country to catch up with other nations in digital evolution,” he said.

The President said on Tuesday he would address slow internet connectivity and cybersecurity issues and digitalize the bureaucracy in the country.

“And it’s unfortunate, because some of the studies we’ve made, the general consumer if you want to call them that, talks to every facet of their lives through the Internet, except for the government,” Romualdez said.

Meanwhile, the Speaker said House priorities for this year also include 11 other important bills the Executive and Legislative branches had agreed on in October during the meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

He said these proposals are also among those enumerated by President Marcos in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July.

“These measures are components of the President’s Agenda for Prosperity, which we fully support,” he said.

In addition to the E-Governance/Government Act, the pending urgent bills are: enabling law for the natural gas industry, amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, Unified System of Separation, Retirement and Pension Act, National Land Use Act, National Defense Act, National Government Rightsizing Program Bill, Budget Modernization Bill, Department of Water Resources Bill, proposed law establishing Negros Island Region, Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers and the proposal to establish regional specialty hospitals.

Romualdez said the House would work with the Senate for the expeditious enactment of various bills the larger chamber had approved on third and final reading before Congress started its Christmas recess last month, including the Internet Transactions/E-Commerce Bill.

Like the proposed E-Governance/Government Act, he said the Internet Transactions Bill would contribute to attaining the President’s digital transformation goal.

The Speaker is the principal author of the two measures, as well as most of the approved and still pending priority bills.

The proposed E-Governance/Government Act seeks to shift the bureaucracy to digital platforms for faster and more efficient and transparent services.

It would establish an integrated, interconnected, and interoperable information, resource sharing and communications network, which would include internal records, management information system, information database and digital portals spanning the entirety of the national and local government for the delivery of public services.

It would provide easier access to government information and services in a manner consistent with laws regarding the protection of personal privacy, national security, records retention, access for persons with disability and other relevant statutes.

The E-Commerce Bill aims to regulate internet transactions and protect consumers as well as merchants.

An Electronic Commerce Bureau would be created under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to implement the proposed law, which would apply to all internet transactions and to all domestic merchants and foreign entities doing online business in the Philippines.

The bill details the rights and obligations of all those involved in or doing internet transactions. It provides the means for the redress of grievances and resolution of disputes which prescribes penalties for violations, including fines of up to PHP5 million. (PNA)