The House of Representatives opened its new session on Monday with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano stressing the importance of keeping Filipinos safe and healthy as they return to work under the new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The leader of the House outlined the chamber's agenda for the legislative year: Strengthen agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing sectors to help the economy recover, invest in infrastructure, boost the local creative industry, establish provinces as centers of development, and decongest cities. Cayetano's Senate counterpart, Senate President Tito Sotto, laid out a similar, five-point plan.
“Right now is the greatest and most difficult tasks is to keep Filipinos safe and healthy while getting Filipinos back to work,” Cayetano said. Lawmakers are expected to “speak in all honesty, candor, and humility, and this is what the situation demands," he said.
Cayetano and Sotto spoke ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address at 4 p.m., where the chief executive is expected to detail his plans to deal with the outbreak. Confirmed infections crossed the 80,000 mark on Sunday and a recession is all but confirmed ahead of official GDP data next month.
The Speaker said cities must be decongested to spread development to the provinces. He also said the country’s creative industry, ranging from robotics to performing arts, must be nurtured even at this time.